April MacLean has lived a lot of life in a little time. From an abusive home to foster care, being pregnant at 15 to sleeping in her car, she’s learned a few things about perseverance. Both her brick and mortar studio and online brand are dedicated to spreading hope and celebrating transparency.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- April was doing so much, but getting little to no real traction – till this one audiobook turned it all around!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- YOU are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with! April was not going to reach her potential till she discarded the negative vibes…
Small Business Resource
- The Skimm: The daily e-mail newsletter that gives you everything you need to start your day. We do the reading for you.
Best Business Book
- The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
- Messy Warrior…First: Three Years. Twenty-Two Foster Homes. One Journey.
JLD: April, are you prepared to ignite?
April Maclean: You have no idea.
JLD: Yes! April has lived a lot of life in a little time. From abusive home to foster care, being pregnant at 15 to sleeping in a car, she’s learned a few things about perseverance. Both her brick and mortar studio and online brand are dedicated to spreading hope and celebrating transparency. April, say what’s up to Fire Nation, and share what’s going on in your world right now.
April Maclean: What’s up, Fire nation? My world is full in just the right way. As you stated, I do have a brick and mortar business. I actually have a performing arts studio, so we are a dance studio with both traditional and world dance genres, and we are 18 and over, so we’re only for the grown folk. I also have an online brand where I speak and write and pontificate and wax poetic and get on people’s nerves sometimes, and I live in beautiful Southern California. I actually live in Riverside, but I’m down in your neck of the woods all the time because it is the best city.
JLD: It is America’s finest city. That’s what we like to call it, and I do love living here. And April, I don’t want to brush over the fact that you used the word “pontificate” because that word does not get used enough. Can we bring that word back?
April Maclean: I’ll try to drop it as much as possible in the whole interview.
JLD: Okay. My goal is a minimum of two more times to make a round three, but it has to make sense. So, April –
April Maclean: Yeah, I was just going to say, you don’t want to lose listeners.
JLD: So, April, we are gonna really be getting into your journey, and as Fire Nation can tell just from that little intro that I gave, you have had quite the gosh-darn journey. But before we get into that, I want you to share with us some insights into your mind, and what I call the one-minute mindset, and the first question being, ideally, what are the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
April Maclean: The first 80 minutes of the day for me is crucial, so I’m pretty ritualistic. It’s the only time that I’m ritualistic about my life, but I really heavily ascribe to the no screen theory when it comes to morning time. So, the first thing I do is go into the living room and open all the blinds because natural light is my favorite. I tend to wake up early – 5:30 or 6 – so it’s usually dark outside still for a little bit.
Grab the coffee, light a candle, do a devotional, and then no matter how quickly I get through all of that, for 30 minutes I won’t do anything else. I will sit on my couch like a loaf and stare out the window. I actually live – like, my yard is on a golf course, so the view is gorgeous. But I really just need that time because I know I’m not gonna get it again for the rest of the day.
JLD: What I love about those first 80 minutes is that you’re on your agenda. You’re not going on somebody else’s agenda right away. And that’s what we do when we get that immediate screen time, Fire Nation, so great stuff, April. And what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
April Maclean: I am a shipper more than anything else, and so once the idea comes, it’s very hard for me to just chill out for a second and let it happen the way it’s supposed to.
JLD: So, why is that a bad thing?
April Maclean: Well, sometimes it’s a really beautiful and valuable thing, but a lot of times, I need to have the patience to [00:03:24] need to do their due course, and I kinda want to go from zero to a hundred immediately.
JLD: Okay. Some people look at that as a weakness, and I’m sure it’s definitely harmed you in a few scenarios, but April, speed of implementation is critical.
April Maclean: Yes, yes.
JLD: So, if something is gonna fail, let’s find out quickly. If something is gonna succeed, let’s find out quick, too, and then make things happen. So, we’ll take that as a weakness because that can cause harm if you don’t proceed with some form of caution. But on the flip side, what’s your biggest strength?
April Maclean: I am a huge lover of iteration. There’s nothing about it that’s frightening to me, I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself for a while, I have faith that my fans will follow me through all the yuckiness, and in fact, I think it adds some authenticity. So, and I’m constantly learning so that iteration is always present, anyway.
JLD: And what rhymes with iteration?
April Maclean: Alliteration? Pontification?
JLD: Yes! That’s exactly what I was going for. Number two, and it made sense, kind of.
April Maclean: Score!
JLD: So, April, what’s a habit that you wish you had?
April Maclean: I wish I was a journaler. I think whenever I hear people talk about journaling, it seems super serene and mellow, and I’ve heard you talk about the – I think it’s called the five-minute journal, I believe?
April Maclean: Which I have not tried, but I just can’t seem to hone in on that habit.
JLD: It’s a tough habit, but I will say that if you do maybe – and really just include that as five of your 30 minutes that you’re sitting kinda looking out the window, it can kind of be a reflection too where it’s just on your lap. You’re looking up only if the result comes from what those questions are, like what are you grateful for? What are you looking to accomplish today? Only if it comes, that’s how you can start. Then you might see that it comes more easily over days.
And I’m actually such a believer in journaling that I’m creating a physical journal similar to the five-minute journal, but with a much different focus to accomplish a goal in 100 days, called the Freedom Journal. So April, I’ll send you one when it comes out.
April Maclean: Yes. I will do that one.
JLD: What is one thing that has you most fired up right now?
April Maclean: I feel like the last couple years have been me pushing the fly wheel, as it were, and it’s just been, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” multiple projects that I feel like [groans] uphill. And this year and the last couple months, they all just kind of let loose and they’re flying. So, through – the studio’s thriving like beautifully, online though, my book is finally getting published. I had created a documentary about my time both in foster care and how dance sort of healed that experience; that’s finally in post-edit production. And there are several online courses that I just wrapped up that are now available, and it just took a real long time to get all those going.
JLD: That’s something to be fired up about April, and it just seems like Fire Nation, we need to listen to these things that Entrepreneur on Fire guests are excited about. See how they feel for us – is this something that kind of gets us excited too? And then how can we use that idea in our niche in our industry and move forward? Because if it’s exciting these successful entrepreneurs, the sky is the limit.
And April, now we’re gonna talk about your journey. And you have control of the story you’re gonna tell, but my one request is that this first story is what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. So, take us there, tell us that story and the lessons learned.
April Maclean: I would start by saying that I was in that stage where I was trying to launch multiple things off the ground at once, and it seemed like there was quite a bit of headway. Everything was being well-received, I had a fight ahead of me but I was on my way up, and I felt a nice level of momentum going. Like, “Yeah! We’re gonna do this!” Wake up in the morning, “Let’s go!”
And I felt over the course of last year this struggle that was getting worse and worse to the point where I didn’t feel like I understood what was going on. I was having personal relationships severely break down. It just kind of got to the point where life was a mess, and I got a little numb for a second. And that probably went on for a good six months. And I had a long drive to make – actually, it was to San Diego – and I popped in the audio version of Outwitting the Devil, which is phenomenal, and you’ve listened to it, right?
JLD: Absolutely. And just to break in real quick for Fire Nation – so, Napoleon Hill Think and Grow Rich, Fire Nation, was one of the best sellers in the 1930s, and moving forward, he also in that same decade wrote Outwitting the Devil, which they put into an archive until 2011, never releasing to the public because it was too controversial, in their opinion. So, it’s crazy the book’s only been out for a few years now, but absolutely amazing. The Devil’s voice in that audio version, April, it’s like James Earl Jones. So good.
April Maclean: Yeah. It’s alarmingly debonair. I don’t really know how I feel about it. But there is a whole section of that book where he – where the devil talks about what he calls, “Drifters,” which is – you know, I think it’s kind of open to interpretation, but it’s essentially people who don’t have a firm mindset in their beliefs, in their moral compass, in their laurels.
And I was listening to him and as he was speaking, I realized that I had become a drifter. That’s what had happened in the last six months – that I had allowed so many things to pick away at my mind and sense of self-worth and being that I was kind of wavering in any old direction. And actually, as I’m telling you this story, I realize that what I’m saying to you is my ah-ha moment came from the devil –
JLD: Oh, we’ll work this in. I love it.
April Maclean: – but that – I remember driving into San Diego and thinking, “Oh my gosh. This is what it is.” And it was very transformative for me.
JLD: So, let’s kind of talk about this book Outwitting the Devil a little bit because I think it’s fascinating that you picked up on this, and I think it’s so important that you tied it in not only to your worst entrepreneurial moment, which was before you listened to this, to even your ah-ha moment, which is while you listened to this. What were some specific things, besides that drifting part, that you really got out of this book that really just made an impact with your mindset, your direction, your belief system?
April Maclean: One of the biggest ones is that almost immediately when he starts the interview, the devil requests that he address him by, “Your Majesty.” And you know, Napoleon, or Mr. Earthbound, is like, “What right do you have to ask me to address you as Your Majesty?” And the devil says, “Do you not realize that I control 98 percent of the population?”
And I had such a visceral reaction to that because he goes on to say, essentially, that people only live one of two ways: by faith or by fear, and there’s no middle ground. And so, those that are making their decisions out of fear, he’s already got in the palm of his hand. I think that is, besides drifting, my biggest takeaway – is how do we make decisions based on our hopes and faith, and not based out of fear?
JLD: There’s definitely a lot that I can remember while listening to Outwitting the Devil, and in fact one of them, I was listening as I was on a train ride in Barcelona. We were actually taking a train from one city to the next; I popped it in and I’m listening to this, and that part really shook me up too because when they said 98 percent, I looked around the train and then I basically said, “98 percent of the people that I’m seeing right now are living a life of fear.”
And there’s even a quote that I remember, I’ll never forget, is that, “The vast majority of humans are living lives of quiet desperation.” You can’t hear it, you might not be able to see it by looking at their face, but when they’re turning off the light at night, they’re going to that place of quiet desperation because that fear is leading them. So, you’re driving down to San Diego, America’s finest city. You kind of have this visceral reaction to the 98 percent comment, and to the drifter comments – what changes?
April Maclean: I think there’s a few things that changed. No. 1, I’m a woman of faith. I pray – at least I try to pray pretty regularly, and one of the first things that changed is the way I approach my prayers. And it’s exactly what you said about quiet desperation; rather than coming with this spirit of like, “Oh, I hope whatever small dream I can conjure up for the day, can you just please …?” It was more like, “Hey. There are some big, bold, bad plans out there for me. Let’s handle these.”
And so, just having that mindset of waking up in the morning and like, “I’m ready to dominate this,” not like, “I certainly hope I can pay bills this month.” It’s just – it changes demeanor, it changes my spirit, and it changes the things that I’m willing to go after.
JLD: So, you get to San Diego, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, let’s be honest, it’s like that, speaking of 98 percent of the time. It’s like that 98 percent of the time. You make this change in the way that you look at faith and the way that you look at yourself, and how you don’t want to live your life in the palm of the – and again, this is a quote on quote devil, which is what this Outwitting the Devil is all about. What is like one specific action that you took that changed your business in some way?
I mean, you said that you were doing a lot of things, it seemed to be catching on, but there was obviously a lot of fear because they weren’t home runs. What is something you changed? Like, and let me kind of give you some examples. Like, some things that I think about would be, “I just figured out one of those seven different things that I wanted to just focus on, hone my skills on, and dominate and crush, and see if that worked quickly.” Again, speed of implementation, and if it doesn’t, I’m on to the next one. That’s kind of what I would do having been in that situation, but what did you do, and how did that lead to eventual success?
April Maclean: I think there are two specific things I did. One is a little bit directly correlated with the business is that I stopped speaking to people who weren’t breathing positivity and encouragement into my life. You know, I had several friendships and relationships that I was hanging on to, “Oh, they’re a good person,” or you know, you don’t want to walk away from history. And for me, there was a moment of, “You have to laser focus in on what you’re doing.”
You know, he talks a lot about definite of purpose, and that purpose was getting lost as I was spending energy on people who didn’t really – I didn’t owe my energy to, who hadn’t really earned my energy. It was a really expensive price to pay. That was one of the first things. And one of the second things I did is I took a look at the projects I had going on, and I can’t remember – you will remember – who’s quote is it that said, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no?”
JLD: Derek Sivers.
April Maclean: There you go. That’s what I would ask myself when looking at each of those projects, and I could honestly say that some of them I was doing based off people’s expectations of me, and those just had to go immediately. So, I was either excited about going after these things, or they had to get drawn off the table.
JLD: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no – and there are a couple things that I want to talk about specifically on this, April, and I would love kind of your feedback on this. I believe there is a time and a place for entrepreneurs with this. Now, with me, I feel like I’m definitely at that place where if it’s not an absolute hell yes, it has got to be a no because I only have so much bandwidth, and I have a lot of really good things that are going on.
However, I think of the John Lee Dumas in 2012 and 2013, and at some point when you’re starting, you’re starting to get that momentum going. You have to say yes to a lot of things that might work to try to get that momentum, to try to get that little extra oomph that you might need because you just don’t know what’s going to work.
So, I know that I said yes to a lot of, “That could be good,” and I don’t regret all of them because some of them ended up blowing me away beyond my wildest expectations. So, I’m at the point now where I definitely say that. Do you think that it needs to be from the very beginning, or do you think you should get a certain tipping point before that’s your black and white answer?
April Maclean: Yeah. I think it’s a little bit of both. I do think that there’s a tendency – I see a lot – entrepreneur is like this buzz word now, and I see a lot of people calling themselves that who, for lack of a better way to put it, haven’t really paid dues. And I think that there is a nobility in apprenticing and volunteering and doing those things just to get your name out there. There’s a lot of people that wanna skip those levels, and I just don’t find there to be wisdom in that approach.
So, I totally agree with you, and I do think that they do have to understand the difference between chasing after the things that are really going to further their vision, and just grasping at anything that comes along. There’s also a subtle difference there.
JLD: I love that word apprentice. It’s another word that I personally can’t use enough because I think it’s so powerful. And if you put yourself, Fire Nation, in the position where you are an apprentice, where you go to somebody who is at where you want to be, then when these opportunities come along, you can go to them and say, “Listen, you have the experience, you’ve been here and done that. Is this an opportunity that should be a hell yes right now for me? Because I’m not really there where I can identify that, yet.” And that mentor can help you immensely. Have you had a powerful mentor in your life, April?
April Maclean: I’ve had several powerful mentors in my life, and I will always continue to seek them out because I’m never arriving.
JLD: Never arriving – Fire Nation, if you keep that attitude throughout, good things will come. And April, we are about to answer the lightening round, but before we get there, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
April, welcome to the lightening round, where you get to share incredible resources in mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
April Maclean: I’m ready.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
April Maclean: Living a life that was good enough was holding me back.
JLD: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
April Maclean: I had a friend who once told me, “Level up on your friendships. Level up on your inner circle,” and that piece of advice really changed the way I associate myself.
JLD: What’s a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
April Maclean: Time management is a ridiculously important trait to have, especially in your ability to focus. I really ascribe to a couple different techniques, but I don’t believe in multitasking and I don’t believe that it even exists. So, one of my best habits is the ability to accomplish one task from A to B before moving on.
JLD: It is scientifically proven that multitasking does not exist. Even computers have to switch from different task to task. We think we’re multitasking but what we’re really doing is just switching from one thing to another quickly, unperceivably, but your whole focus is not there. And April, you’re a listener of Entrepreneur on Fire; you know focus, follow one course until success!
April Maclean: One course until success! I win!
JLD: Dang! All right, one more pontificate and then you do win.
April Maclean: Okay.
JLD: So, do you have an internet resource, like Evernote, that you can share with our listeners?
April Maclean: Yeah. There’s two things that I visit pretty regularly. One, every morning I do read The Skimm, which is like literally they skim the news and just grab the most pressing headlines so that you can stay up to date without having to watch all of the depressing dribble. And the other thing that I keep bookmarked on my desk is, Seth Godin made the ShipIt Journal free, and I use the ShipIt journal before I launch any project. I think it’s just the most brilliantly simple way to get out of my mind.
JLD: Love that. So, if you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
April Maclean: I’m gonna go with The ONE Thing, which I know has been recommended before. So, The ONE Thing is a book regarding how we look at time, and it has been a really pivotal eye-opener for me in terms of understanding like, what we were talking about earlier, about multitasking, in terms of understanding that whole conundrum or quote-on-quote a balanced life, and being able to focus in on your goals with such precision and such goal-setting abilities that you knock them out of the park.
JLD: Knock them out of the park. And Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audiobook for free at eofirebook.com, that’s eofirebook.com. And April, this next question’s the last of the lightening 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 the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
April Maclean: Okay. So, this question does require some heavy pontification before coming to a conclusion.
April Maclean: Yay! I win the internet! I’m gonna give you the most boring answer ever, and then I’m gonna elaborate.
JLD: But you’ve already said pontification.
April Maclean: I used it so it doesn’t matter; I can say anything now, right?
April Maclean: The first seven days, I might – I might not be able to pull it off for the first seven days because there is no other time in the whole world where you will have your food and shelter taken care of and absolutely no obligations socially. So, I feel like I better take advantage of this one time, and just like, do me. I hate that term – I just said that term out loud.
April Maclean: Okay. So, second to that, the thing about this new world is that I feel like I interpret this question differently than other people. Other people are like, “Oh, all these strangers in this new world,” but you’re the stranger. Because if it’s identical to Earth, it’s still President Obama, it’s still – like, it’s still the same people. You’re the weirdo.
April Maclean: Okay. So then, I think that what I would do is use that to my advantage because now the only thing standing in the way of me and success is trust, whereas on a regular basis, what’s standing in my way is trust and understanding pain points. But since it’s an identical world, I already know the pain points. Now all I have to do is get involved, is volunteer, is apprentice enough to earn trust.
Because let’s say I was dropped back in Riverside, where I live right now. Well, I already know what problems Riverside is facing. I know the mayor, I know his likes and dislikes, I know how this town operates. So, I know how to go right to the movers and shakers and from there, all I need to do is get to them to know, like, and trust me, and I’m in. So, it kind of accelerates anything it is that you wanted to do to begin with.
JLD: I love your interpretation of this question, and I also love just that this question is so interpretationable that it can come up with a lot of different answers, and it usually does. And April, what I want to do now is end this interview how we started, which was on fire, with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, then we’ll say good-bye.
April Maclean: Gotcha. Okay. So, the best way to connect with me is www.messywarrior.com, and as far as a parting piece of [00:23:19], I would say that let go of people’s expectations of you because they will always insist that you should be doing one thing or another. For me, it was social work. I was a foster kid. “You should definitely be a social worker,” and I carried that burden for a long time, feeling guilty that I didn’t want to do social work, that it made me crazy inside. But everyone’s gonna wanna give you their own recipe for your life. Unless you’re coming up with your own recipe, you’re eating snacks, not soul food.
JLD: I’m all about the soul food, April. I’m glad you are too. And Fire Nation, you love soul food, I can feel it through the airwaves. And you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with April and JLD today. So keep up with heat and head over to eofire.com and just type April in the search bar; her show notes page will pop right up, with everything that she’s been talking about today. And that was messywarrior.com for her links. And April thanks for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, and for that, we solute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
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