Brian Mac Mahon is the Founder of Expert DOJO, which is now the largest training Academy for early stage entrepreneurs in Southern California. After working with entrepreneurs in over 35 countries he is passionate about one thing: moderate success.
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3 Key Points:
- Humble yourself.
- Avoid debt—use what you can afford from your revenue to get where you want to be.
- You can pick a lot of things in life, but you can’t pick your family—they’re stuck with you and you’re stuck with them.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:58] – Brian has lived in more than 35 countries and traveled the world in just 20 years
- [01:34] – Defining “moderate success”
- [01:57] – Value Bomb Drop: Two things – Follow the 12 Steps to Success and humble yourself enough to realize you can only call yourself a moderate expert in certain areas
- [03:34] – JLD on happiness and being humble
- [03:47] – No matter how great or how horrible things are, that too shall pass.
- [04:17] – What is something you’ve changed your mind about in the last 6 months? The lean start-up
- [05:03] – Entrepreneurs are encouraged to start a business without requesting feedback
- [06:39] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: When a friend’s agency business failed
- [08:59] – Brian’s friend ending up $550K in debt
- [10:12] – Explaining what Brian’s friend should have done
- [10:59] – Focus on the revenue, and let that carry you to where you want to be
- [12:00] – Entrepreneurial AH–HA Moment: When Brian’s wife needed to support him through some tough times
- [13:32] – JLD discusses family
- [14:17] – The only thing consistent in your life is your family
- [14:52] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? Life in general
- [15:52] – Brian describes daily life
- [19:17] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Life”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “When you feel you’re giving too much content, too much information, and too much education to your clients, then there’s only one thing you can do – give them more”
- What’s the personal habit that contributes to your success? “Waking up early”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Klaviyo
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Hooked: How to Create Addictive Behaviors for Your Product – it’s a great book
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experiences and knowledge you currently have – your food and shelter is taken cared of – but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next 7 days? – “I’d throw $150 to find ideas and the biggest problem. Then I’d go find a solution – hire an automation expert and automate as much we can.”
- [23:06] – Parting piece of guidance: “Wake up in the morning, love your live, make sure you cover all the basic needs that you have, but then look to the future and say, How can I create a life on fire?”
- [23:30] – Connect with Brian at Expert Dojo
Interviewee: Born to ignite, my friend, born to ignite!
Interviewer: Yes! Brian is the founder of Expert Dojo, which is now the largest training academy for early-stage entrepreneurs in Southern California. After working with entrepreneurs in over 35 countries, he’s passionate about one thing: moderate success. Brian take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Interviewee: So, I’ve lived in about 35 countries. I’ve traveled around the world for the last 20 years. Each of those places, I’ve been in some form of entrepreneurial endeavor and I love this life. I mean, there’s nothing I love better, so I got to a place about three, four years ago where I just hated the fact that so many entrepreneurs were failing and wanted to – wanted to really change my life from the perspective of enjoying everything there is about entrepreneurship to dedicating myself to learning everything there is about success and entrepreneurship.
Interviewer: I’m really excited for this interview for all of those reasons and so much more, I mean, the word moderate success, I actually want to become a theme for this interview because, Brian, I think it’s so important for entrepreneurs to realize just the reality that moderate success is and what it means and how you attain that. But before we get into all that, kind of break down for us, like, what is your area of expertise if you were to pin it down, and give us two “value bombs” in this niche.
Interviewee: So I would say my area of expertise is energy. I wake up at 4:30 every single day, I love everything I do all the way through. I am a great study of people. When we opened this academy here at the beginning I decided that I was a great generalist, so I really know how to start a business, how to grow a business, how to expand a business, I’ve done it four times in lots of countries. But what I didn’t know was the reasons why business were breaking down for entrepreneurs. So we brought entrepreneurs into our space here, we took a beautiful space on top of the Santa Monica mall, and we brought entrepreneurs in here for six months, and we didn’t charge them a single dime.
And the only thing we said to them was, “Guys, we want to learn from you, we wanna learn why you’re failing and what’s going wrong with business, and we also want to learn what’s really important in being able to start, run, and expand a phenomenal business.” So during that time, we learned all about the importance of branding, of product fit, of making sure that you’ve got a right market validation, of having a peak performance attitude, of being able to write business plans and really understand business plans.
So I’d say over the last four years, I’ve done two things. The first thing is, I’ve become a great study of what we’ve created in our Twelve Steps to Success, which are all of those points or more; and I’ve also humbled myself to realize that you can only call yourself a moderate expert in these areas if you don’t do this exclusively. So we surround ourselves by great branding people, by great product fit people, by other great specialists within these individual areas, so that we can call upon them any time.
Interviewer: You know Fire Nation; this is actually something that I haven’t brought up in a while that I used to harp on quite a bit. But I’m glad you kind of brought it back to the forefront of my mind, Brian, and that’s the word “humble”. I mean, when I was growing up, I would always have my uncle look at me and he would say, “John, be humble, be happy.” So I grew up always equating happiness with being humble, and I think that’s so important as an entrepreneur, Fire Nation.
Because no matter how great things are, that too shall pass. And no matter how horrible things are, that too shall pass. Just keeping that in mind and knowing that, yes, you might be crushing it or getting crushed now, you just need to keep a humble attitude, keep your nose to the grindstone and move forward. Now Brian, what is something that you specifically have changed your mind about in the last six months? Meaning, what’s something that you used to believe in that you don’t believe in anymore?
Interviewee: A lean startup; and this is kind of an interesting one because I believe I might be the only person in the entire United States who doesn’t believe in lean startups.
Interviewer: Have you talked to Eric Humphries about this because I have him on the other line right now.
Interviewee: Let me tell you why and look, respect and belief are two different things. Obviously, massively respect the guy and there are portions of it which were really good, but here’s my problem: The failure rate with an early stage entrepreneurship is around 98-99 percent. Now, as an Irish man, if me or any of my friends were going into a fistfight with a 99 percent chance of losing, we probably – even us with our optimism – probably would walk away from that fight.
So as I brought these entrepreneurs in and I looked at what they were doing, and it’s not that things contribute to failure, because it doesn’t, but I have a real problem with the fact that entrepreneurs are encouraged to start a business without requesting feedback from people who are in that area, or clients or prospects, and without building a business plan.
The whole build, measure, learn sounds brilliant, and it works when you put it into automation with its tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in the car industry. But when you take it into early-stage startup and there is a massive failure rate, I’m sorry, you have to build a business plan and it has to be a real smart business plan, where it’s tied into dashboard metrics every day. You know, I’ll just say one extra thing: What I love about you, I mean it was just amazing, when I came across you at the beginning and I saw you put your revenue numbers up there, and I thought that is either the craziest or the most brilliant guy I’ve ever seen.
Because he has his business plan, he has his methodology, he has the marketing plan, he has the entire funnel there and he knows exactly what needs to be achieved every month, and I just don’t believe you can do that at the beginning, so it was a moment for me where I definitely got to an “Aha!” place and I thought, “What if were to actually just reverse it entirely?” And that’s what we’ve done.
Interviewer: Well, so which is it? Am I the most brilliant or the –
Interviewee: No, you’re brilliant, you’re great. Like, you bring brilliance and you bring humility to the entire entrepreneurial process, which is, just phenomenal so that other people can accomplish and that’s what it’s all about.
Interviewer: Thanks, Brian. Well, listen, now that you’ve been saying such good things about me, I’m going to force you down this rabbit hole of telling us, Fire Nation, your worst entrepreneurial moment ever. So, take us there, brother, take us to that moment in time and really tell us that story.
Interviewee: My friends failing. You know, I had lived in all these countries, it’s funny, I did a TED talk about this about two or three months ago, and I had had this dream since I was like nine or ten years old about this incredible American Dream, where anybody can be a great entrepreneur and all you have to do is have the will, and the heart, and the ability to do it and anyone can do it.
Interviewee: And there’s a small minority of people who do that, like yourself, I mean you went through the trenches and you got yourself fired. But for the majority of people, I saw all these people who had these great ideas for these phenomenal tech companies, failing, and then I saw a bunch of kids who were Ivy League, which is fine, and I saw them succeeding with lesser ideas, and I sort of realized that in many areas, the tech industry, and this is very specific to tech, but the tech industry is a little bit like the Simon Cowell music factory. And that’s okay if everybody knows about it, but everybody doesn’t know about it.
You have these thousands of people, including my friends, starting businesses every single day, trying to be the next Snapchat, trying to be the next Facebook, trying to be the next Pinterest, or Instagram and none of them know that 95 percent of this system is entirely rigged.
Interviewer: Well, let’s talk about that, though. What do you mean the Simon Cowell music industry and comparing that to the tech industry, how does that work?
Interviewee: Many of the great entrepreneurs that we look at – whether it’s Facebook or Instagram or whether it’s Twitter or whether it’s Snapchat, Airbnb – are huge examples in the opposite because they did it themselves.
But many of the other examples are people who just went to great schools, Mommy and Daddy had a trust fund, Uncle Jimmy was a venture capitalist and Uncle Jimmy as the venture capitalist knows that the real owner of the company is Uncle Jimmy because what they’re going to do is they’re going to pump enough money into that company that the lazy majority, that’s all of us users who come in on like the second or third round of iPhones, that all of us, if there’s a billion dollars put in, we’re just gonna take the product and anyone else, even if they have a better product, the simple fact that they don’t have access to a billion dollars or half a billion, means that they’re not going to be able to do it.
Interviewer: So Brian, let’s kind of get into a story about this because you kind of give that vague thing of all my friends fail and all this stuff, they struggle. What’s one example of one story of one of your friends, you don’t have to use names or specific examples, but I just want that real story of a friend that had these high hopes and then had them all crash down because it’s happening, what you’re saying.
Interviewee: Yeah, I mean, it was heartbreaking, I had friend over here, like I could name 30, but I’m gonna take one person who started off, it was a dating agency, he had this phenomenal idea to create an agency whereby you could see people in the individual places and it was great; and he put all his money into it, he had a great job, he gave up his job, he moved out, he invested the money in, he created the product, he was surrounded by all of the providers who make the pickax handles, so everybody from the dev agency – web development agencies to marketing agencies, and everybody sold him the dream and as he went to more and more individual investors, he realized that everything that had been told to him about being able to get half a million dollars and two million dollars, just wasn’t true.
And he spent six months trying to get the investors, and I won’t go into his personal situation, but it wasn’t fun because the challenge with starting a business is, your family are generally the ones that are hit the hardest. So he went two years down the line, the business collapsed, now on top of his student loans, he’s about $550,000 in debt, he’ll probably never start a business again and it’s not because he’s not a brilliant person. It’s because nobody told him the rules.
Interviewer: What should he have done?
Interviewee: He should have, firstly, understood that taking a business like this and starting it on its own without having the funding lined up at the start would be really tough. He should have then tried to build it up on a local level, so maybe create a local meetup, get people coming in, start a stream of revenue coming through. I love revenue. Everything for me in a business is about trying to generate massive users or massive revenue. If you can’t show that you can get massive users within six months, then focus on getting massive revenue even if it’s not your users.
So he could have easily curated massive groups of people who were looking to meet each other and gone into more, maybe direct, one-on-one coaching as opposed to trying to create a platform and going to 14 different development companies. So, I believe if you’re looking for one word that I would change, for him to do it again based on what we know now, it would be focus on the revenue to get you to the place that you’re not desperate. Because the second that you’re desperate for investments is the second you’re dead.
Interviewer: They smell it.
Interviewee: They smell it, you’re desperate and you’re dead, and they see you, you start sweating when you walk into meetings and that’s not good.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, people vote with their wallets, and that’s why when you do focus on revenue, that’s a good thing to focus on because if you’re actually generating revenue, people are voting with their wallets and they’re most usually important asset, which is the hard-earned dollars that they’ve generated, you know you’ve actually got something there. People refuse to vote with their wallets, then you’re not having – generating any revenue? That’s a huge red flag.
Now Brian let’s kind of shift now into an “Aha” moment. I mean, you’ve already kind of shared, like, five or six ideas that you’ve had, light bulbs have gone off in your journey because you’ve had hundreds, I mean you eat “Aha” moments for breakfast, but what’s one of your greatest? Tell us that story by taking us to that moment in time.
Interviewee: Oh, I’m gonna take you to a real personal one, I can bring you back to my wife at the day because what happens is you’re an entrepreneur is, you don’t realize you’re turning into a jerk, but you do, right? You suddenly become this different person. Especially when you get new experiences and I definitely did. So as I was becoming an entrepreneur and I was moving into different places and I took on my second to last company, I truly believed I went through a “God syndrome” for a little while, and I turned into an awful person, and I would say like my wife is a princess and a wonderful person, and so she was very nice about it, probably nicer than I would.
But it’s my biggest bit of advice to people is, when you’re going into entrepreneurship, prepare yourself psychologically for what you’re going to go through, and I don’t just mean the work – the 12, 15, sometimes 18 hours days, I mean actually for what you’re going to turn into as a person, what your journey is going to take you to and make sure that you’re happy with that and also make sure that you do what I didn’t do, and you go to your family and you sit down and you say this is what’s probably going to happen based on everything that I’ve been told, are we in this together? Or is it just me on my own?
Interviewer: I mean, just having your family understanding what you’re going through, potentially supporting you, you know that’s not required because a lot of families just aren’t going to support you because they just don’t get it and they want what’s best for you and what they think is best for you is that traditional nine-to-five, with all that security, you know, “security”, but if you can actually go forward and have the real conversations, Fire Nation, it’s important.
I mean, I’ll tell you, I’m going to be going home pretty soon here for a Christmas and I’m gonna be hanging out with the family, and I’m gonna have a lot of my family, even my real close family’s gonna be coming up to me and saying, you know like, “John, we’re really proud of you, like what you’ve accomplished it’s really amazing,” and my first response is like, “Guys, I’m not really trying to be a Debbie Downer, here, but you need to realize, like, Yes, I’m currently enjoying the success that I’m currently experiencing, but we don’t know what the future’s gonna hold,” and I mean this is a crazy roller coaster of a ride that I’m on and it’s gonna be ups and downs, so just know that there’s gonna be a time where I’m probably not quite knocking it out of the park as I am right now.
There’s going to be the ups and the downs and just having that conversation with those that are around you, that love you, it’s so important. So Brian, that’s what I’m taking away. What do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from your “Aha!” moment?
Interviewee: Just remember that it’s the only thing that’s consistent in your life is your family. Now we – I have a beautiful little boy and I have a wonderful wife and I have a great family and I have a wonderful, surrounding around me. Just make sure that as you go on this journey, which by the way is the best journey in the entire world, just make sure that you take your family on it with you.
That you involve them in the really wonderful parts, that you involve them in the really awful parts. You make sure you take them on the entire journey from the beginning to the end, and look, if they don’t want to join you, then fine, no problem. This is about you, it’s not about them. It’s about how you involve them in this wonderful, wonderful place that you’re going to.
Interviewer: What are you most fired up today about, Brian?
Interviewee: Life. Like every day, every day if I could see five new clients today and I could impact one person in an incredible way, it has me – I mean, I say I wake up at 4:30 every day and I – it’s a terrible phrase because it just belittles what it is, but I love what I do. And I love what I do to such an extent that if I could wake up at 4:00 or 3:30, just to have these wonderful experiences – and I believe you talk about nine-to-five jobs, like the biggest thing people miss out of nine-to-five jobs is this area of exploration that we entrepreneurs do every day. It’s not about the money; it was never about the money. It’s about the exploration that we do in our lives to take us to a place that most people, 70 percent of people, will never ever be able to feel. So that’s what gets me going every single day.
Interviewer: So you leap out of bed at 4:30 a.m., give me an example of what a day could look like in your world.
Interviewee: So I’ll wake up in the morning, I’ll get my e-mails cleared, that will normally be probably about 100-120 e-mails, I get that done by about 7:00. At 7:30, I’ll wake up my little boy, I’ll bring him over to school, I’ll then make my way over to the office. I will see, I’ll probably have my first meeting – like today I have 12 meetings lined up. Three of those will be two hour, one-on-one meetings; the rest of them will be 30 minute meetings, 15 minute meetings. They’ll be about building up relationships, they’ll be about arranging conferences, they’ll be about changing entrepreneur’s lives, they’ll be about changing my life.
I’ll then get to 6:00 – I’ll get to 4:00 in the evening, I’ll pick up my boy from school, we’ll then go home, we’ll probably have a game of tennis, he’ll go to bed and then I’ll clear my e-mail, there’ll be like 20 or 30 of them, from maybe like 9-10:30 in the evening. That’s a great day.
Interviewer: Wow. That sounds like a great day.
Interviewee: It’s a great day, mate, it’s a great day! I meet nine or ten amazing people every single day.
Interviewer: See, that’s kind of one of the crazy things when people look at me and they go, “John, like how do you do a daily podcast? Like, you’re interviewing somebody seven days a week.” And I’m like, well do you realize what I’m doing? Like, I am actually having a conversation with an inspiring and successful human being, like, how is that not amazing? How is that not fun? How is that not something that I do want to do every single day?
Interviewer: And Brian, like you’re doing that face-to-face multiple, multiple, multiple times per day, and I mean this is the thing, Fire Nation, you just have to find what it is that lights you up. You know, maybe having four, five, ten conversations face-to-face doesn’t light you up but you know what does if you sit down and think about it. Now speaking of lighting you up, Fire Nation, we’re lighting you up in the lightning round, so don’t you go anywhere because we’re going to take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors.
Brian, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Interviewer: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Interviewee: Life - I wish schools would teach everybody about entrepreneurship. I wish colleges, other than the really expensive ones, would teach everybody about entrepreneurship. I found it out by mistake and I’ve never turned around, but that’s the only thing that held me back is, nobody told me and showed me and helped me realize what it was like to be an entrepreneur in today’s world, but I fixed that.
Interviewer: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Interviewee: Joe Pulizzi, content marketing institute, what he said is, “When you feel like you’re giving too much content, too much information, too much education to your clients, there’s only one thing that you can do, and that’s give them more.”
Interviewer: Love that guy. What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Interviewee: I do believe it’s what time I wake up in the morning, it allows me to clear out. A lot of people focus on what they’re really comfortable with, so they’ll spend all day doing e-mails or all day doing – replying back to things. I get all that out of the way before 8:30 in the morning, so I can focus on what I love.
Interviewer: Can you share an internet resource like Evernote with Fire Nation?
Interviewee: I love Klaviyo. I love automation, so anything that can automate things that you would have to do manually and give you exactly the same results and give people exactly the same feeling when they receive it is wonderful. So Klaviyo is an amazing e-mail automation system that allows you to probably save an hour, an hour and a half in a day.
Interviewer: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Interviewee: There’s a guy I really, really admire called Nir Eyal and he wrote a book called Hooked, and Hooked is how to create addictive behaviors for your product. It’s really important because he says that you need to make sure to create an addictive behavior, it has to be something that happens at least on a weekly basis, but preferably more often, so for example you’ve created Entrepreneur on Fire as an addictive behavior, by making sure that it’s a daily show that people feel that without having the show, their day wouldn’t be the same. So it’s a great book. Everybody should get it if you’re starting a business.
Interviewer: Love it! Now Brian this is the last question of the lightning round, but it is 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 is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500, what would you do in the next 7 days?
Interviewee: Pretty much all of the ideas are out there, so I’m guessing in this new world, all of the ideas would be out there, too. So I’m gonna throw $150 bucks to find that idea. So that means I’m gonna go to meetups, I’m going to go online, I’m going to go into courses, I’m going to allocate $150 to look at every single idea out there and find the biggest problem that is facing this world and then I’m going to be focused on the solution.
So I’m going to take another $150 bucks, I don’t know much about automation myself, so I’m going to get an automation expert in that area to try to make sure that I can automate as much as I possibly can of the solution that I’m coming with. That’s another $150. I’m gonna throw $6.99 at a tub of Ben and Jerry’s because I love Ben and Jerry’s and if you going through this, you’ve got to have Ben and Jerry’s.
Interviewer: Have you ever had the Red Velvet Ben and Jerry’s?
Interviewee: Have I had the Red Velvet? By the way, if this new world doesn’t have Ben and Jerry’s, I’m not going. It’s gonna fail. I’m gonna throw another $150, I’m gonna throw it at an e-mail automation system and an e-mail capture system, so on top of Klaviyo, add in Lead Pages in there. And then my last $43, or $43 and one cent is going to go to therapy for my wife, for everything she’s going to go through during that period.
Interviewer: Brian, you started this interview on fire and you’ve obviously ended on fire, so let’s just go ahead and share with Fire Nation a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Interviewee: Wake up in the morning, love your life, make sure that you cover all of the basic needs that you have, but then look to the future and say, “How can I create a life on fire in something that I absolutely adore doing?” And don’t make that something just that you do today. Make it something that you go out, and you research, and you check and you adore and then love and then dedicate the rest of your life to that.
Interviewer: And what’s the best way we can connect with you?
Interviewee: You can catch me brian@expertdojo, you can go onto our site, expertdojo.com, join up, give to the community, and be part of the entrepreneur revolution.
Interviewer: Boo-yah! In Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with Bri and J.L.D. today, so keep up the heat. And head on over to eofire.com and just type Brian in the search bar and his shows page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore, and of course head over to firstname.lastname@example.org, via e-mail, hit him up via e-mail or just go to expertdojo.com to see what they have going on over there. And Brian, I want to say thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, for that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Interviewee: Thanks, John. Take Care.
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