From the archive: This episode was originally recorded and published in 2019. Our interviews on Entrepreneurs On Fire are meant to be evergreen, and we do our best to confirm that all offers and URL’s in these archive episodes are still relevant.
At just 19 years old serial entrepreneur Brian Scudamore pioneered the industry of professional junk removal with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Then he scaled that success into three more home-service brands.
Brian’s Instagram – Check out Brian’s Instagram!
WTF?! (Willing to Fail) – Snag a copy of Brian’s book on Amazon!
3 Value Bombs
1) There’s failure after failure after failure – but those failures become a stepping stone to a much better place in life.
2) The biggest mistake is thinking too big, in the sense that you get overwhelmed and you start thinking of the details when you just need to think of where are you going.
3) Think big, dream, put it out there in the universe, and then make day by day little mistakes – little failures towards making that dream a reality.
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Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: How to use failure as your key to success
[0:56] – Share something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know?
[02:15] – Let’s start with the philosophy of being willing to fail and what it can do in our lives…
- There’s failure after failure after failure, but those failures become a stepping stone to a much better place in life.
- But the philosophy for me is you can’t get better in life unless you are willing to take some risk.
[05:07] – What is the biggest mistake you see people make when they’re setting goals in their life?
- They don’t start because they create something in their mind – they start doubting and thinking that it’s not possible.
- The biggest mistake is thinking too big, in the sense that you get overwhelmed and you start thinking of the details when you just need to be thinking of where you’re going.
- When coming up with a goal, it has to have meaning behind it.
[10:49] – Talk about the importance of asking the question “Can you imagine?”
- Think big, dream, put it out there in the universe, and then make day by day little mistakes – little failures towards making that dream a reality.
[13:04] – Give us actionable steps for how we can create that painted picture… how do we envision our own future?
- My advice is to sit down with piece of paper, find somewhere inspirational, and ask yourself: “What can I imagine? Where am I going to be in my dream life?”… and start with a timeline.
- Do not, under any circumstance, start to doubt yourself.
[15:54] – Brian talks about team and the importance of taking risks
- I think it’s about talking to your team, talking to your people, and saying “I have got to take risk here.”
- The passion comes from that commitment, not the other way around. Commit to something – to a direction – and once you really sink in and find your path, then the passion follows.
[17:32] – Why did you write the book, WTF?! (Willing To Fail)
- You have to write a story because you have thirty years of mistakes.
- I imagined, “What if I can inspire one reader with WTF – one person that I can have an impact on in life?”
[19:14] – The tagline for WTF is how failure can be your key to success – why did you choose those words as your tagline?
- I think there is a little bit of magic in that statement
[21:45] – Brian’s parting piece of guidance
- There is a great difference between living and making a life.
- Life is about meaning, it’s about purpose.
- Make meaning, not money. That is the key to happiness.
- WTF?! (Willing to Fail) – Sang Brian’s book on Amazon!
John: What is shakin’, Fire Nation? JLD here with a killer audio masterclass with Brian Scudamore, WTF! Willing to Fail: How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success. That’s the name of this audio masterclass, Fire Nation, so don’t go anywhere because at just 19 years old, serial entrepreneur, Brian, pioneered the industry of professional junk removal with 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Probably heard of that? And then he scaled that success into three more home service brands, so this guy knows what he's talking about.
And if you are willing to fail, it will be the key to your success, Fire Nation, so stick around, we’ll be right back after we thank our sponsor.
Brian, say what's up to Fire Nation and share something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know.
Brian: Yeah, what's up, Fire Nation? Excited to be back. So, I think one of the things most people don’t know that I started talking about recently is the only diploma I've ever received in my life is kindergarten. I dropped out of high school one course short of graduation, I talked myself into college. I've gone to 14 schools, if you count kindergarten through to university, and the only diploma I've ever received is kindergarten.
John: Wow. Well, Fire Nation, I can say I think that’s a testament to the times. And what's also a testament to the times, Brian, is how long it’s actually been since we chatted because you were episode 1290 of Entrepreneurs on Fire. And Fire Nation, if you didn’t listen to that episode, go check it out. We go through Brian’s journey, his story, it’s incredible.
But now, Brian, almost a thousand episodes later, you're episode 2091 on Entrepreneurs on Fire. And what are we gonna talk about today, Fire Nation? Well, as I alluded to in the intro, WTF! Willing to Fail. That’s what we’re gonna be focusing on today and specifically how failure can be key to your business.
So, let’s just start off with the philosophy of being willing to fail. What does that mean, Brian, and what can it do for us in our lives?
Brian: Well, it’s interesting. So, I ended up recently writing a book, of course, called WTF! Willing to Fail and I remember Roy Williams, my coauthor and I, when we were creating it, we were obsessed with the title. And he kept saying, don’t worry about it, the title will come at the end of the book.
Brian: So, I wrote a 30-year-story of my life, our journey with 1-800-GOT-JUNK and our other brands. And I realized, wow, the theme is there's failure after failure after failure, but they became stepping stones to a much better place in life each and every time. So, the title came out, WTF! Willing to Fail, and it was pretty cool how it just sort of rose to the surface.
But the philosophy for me is this: You can’t get better in life unless you're willing to take some risks, unless you're willing to fall on your face.
I've got three kids and my second daughter, I remember we were skiing and she just came back from ski school one day, she was about 7 years old, and she was crying and she goes, I hate this, it’s cold, I keep falling. And I'm like, you keep falling? She looks at me and I go, yeah, that’s amazing. She goes, no, no, I hate falling, it hurts. And I said, but if you don’t fall, if you're not willing to fail and get back up, you're never gonna be a great skier. The best skiers in the world keep falling until they learn how to stop falling.
And so the next day, ski school, she comes back, big smile on her face. Guess what, I fell today. And she was so stoked about her fall that I'm like, okay, someone is listening and she really picked up on the lesson and she's a great skier today.
John: That’s so key. And one thing I wanted to jump back to real quick is I love that concept of the title of your book comes at the end of the book. And how you got to WTF! Willing to Fail, after you wrote the book –
And Fire Nation, what I love about this is so many people – and I know if you're listening, you're probably raising your hand at some level. You never end up starting your book because you don’t have the perfect title. Oh, my God, I can't think of the perfect title for my book, I'm never gonna even be able to start. Well, why don’t you sit down, write the book, create the content, do your thing, pour your blood, your sweat, your tears, your soul onto the pages and then let the title speak for itself when you're finished. I just love that concept.
And then also people say, John, like I’ll never be a good podcaster, I've never interviewed anybody before. Well, of course you're not gonna be good podcasting for the first time, the first time you interview somebody. I've now interviewed 2091 people and I'm still getting better every single time. How bad was I when I first started? Really, really bad, but I fell down and I got up and I got a little bit better. Just like when we were kids, we learn how to walk, we fall down, we get up. We learn how to speak, we stutter, we get better, we speak. All of these things, Fire Nation, this is the philosophy. But still, people make huge mistakes just overall in general with life.
But Brian you're a goal guy, I'm a goal guy. What is the biggest mistake that you see people make when they're setting goals in their life?
Brian: Yeah, it’s related to WTF! In the sense that people are so scared of failing, that they don’t set goals that are big enough. When I was at my parent’s summer cottage eight years into the business, we had just done a million in revenue, I was in a bit of a doom loop, a downward spiral, feeling like my business world wasn’t bringing me happiness.
And it was because I wasn’t thinking big enough, I wasn’t willing to take enough risks. And so I wrote this painted picture, two pages, double-sided, what would the future look like? We’d been in the top 30 metros in North America, we’d be on The Oprah Winfrey Show, we’d be the FedEx of junk removal. I was willing to think big.
And I think the biggest mistake people make with goal setting, with starting a business, with doing something new, like starting a podcast, is they're not willing to start. And they don’t start because they create something in their mind that they start doubting and thinking, nah, that’s not possible. I could have said, well, how could I ever create a city – or a business that is across the top 30 cities in North America when I'm in only one, when I don’t have a college education, when I haven't completed high school? If you start thinking about how as you're creating goals, you start diminishing and lowering the bar.
So, the biggest mistake is thinking too big in the sense that you get overwhelmed and you start thinking of all the details, when really you just need to think about where are you going and be willing to take that first step.
Be willing to do that first podcast and screw it up so bad that you walk away from it and you learn and you say, okay, here’s the mistake I made to get me to the next step so I can learn from that and not repeat.
John: Okay, the quote that just screamed into my mind when you said that last part is a Martin Luther King quote. Fire Nation, you don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step. And that’s where so many people screw up is they're like, okay, when all the lights are green, when I see the entire staircase, when the whole path is perfect laid out before me, then I'm gonna start.
And guess what? That’s not gonna happen because that future is a cloud, it’s a fog. So, you take that first step into the future and then guess what happens? The next step kind of – the cloud parts a little bit, the fog parts a little bit. You see the next step and then you take that step and so on and so forth. And I love that phrase that you started off with, Brian, which is people are so scared of failing that they're not setting goals that are big enough.
And this is a really corny quote, but I love saying it: Shoot for the moon because even if you miss you land amongst the stars. And people are like, I could never hit the moon. Well, guess what, you might not, but because you're setting such a big goal, such a big, hairy, audacious goal, that even if you do come up a little bit short and you might “fail,” look at how much you’ve accomplished because of how big your goal was.
So, Brian, what do you want to kind of add to this before we move on?
Brian: Well, I think when coming up with a goal it also has to have meaning behind it. So, I've got a philosophy that I've always lived, which is make meaning, not money. The money will come. We want money for our toys and our things and enjoying life and having freedom, whatever it is. But if you make meaning first, the money will flow.
So, I think in building out a goal, it’s understanding, as someone like Simon Sinek would say, “What’s your why?” Why is that goal important? If your goal is just a financial one, I'd say it’s not a real goal, it’s not tangible. Come up with a goal of how you want to change the world, what it looks like, and then don’t worry about the details. Just go, take that first step, and start the journey.
It’s just like, you know while Martin Luther King uses the staircase analogy, others might say if you're going on a drive, a road trip at night, and you’ve got those two headlights, they're only lighting up a couple hundred feet in front of you.
Brian: You can't see anything else on that dark road, but you're willing to take the journey and you're willing to figure it out as you go.
John: So, that phrase, Fire Nation, is so key: Make meaning, not money. And I can tell you, Brian, my journey, for the first 32 years of my life, I was flipping that around. I was like, what can I do right now to make money? Okay, I've been an officer in the U.S. Army, like I've kind of checked that block. Now, I went to law school. Hated it, dropped out. Corporate finance. You know chasing money, everything I was doing, I was going after money. But guess what, I had no meaning, I had no passion, I had no success or happiness in that career path, those career paths that I was choosing.
And for me, Brian, it was this Albert Einstein quote that really just smacked me across the head, which kind of says that, in a different way, try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value. And that’s what it was for me. I was trying to just chase success and whatever my weird, warped definition of success was, but I wasn’t providing any value in the world, I wasn’t doing anything that people were like, oh, wow, that’s valuable, that’s helpful, that’s a solution to a problem that I have.
And that’s just like another way of saying I wasn’t really having any meaning in my life. I was chasing the money, but I wasn’t [inaudible] [00:10:00] and I did flip it on its head and said let’s do a daily podcast that’s free, interviewing successful, inspiring entrepreneurs like Brian. Then, guess what, success came, money came. But because first I made meaning, because first I made value in this world.
So, Fire Nation, if you think that we’re even getting going, you are even in for it because we got some great value bombs coming when we get back from thanking our sponsor.
So, Brian, a phrase that comes out of your mouth from time to time is, “Can you imagine.” Talk about the importance of asking that question. What does it mean?
Brian: Yeah, so I've always been someone that’s been able to think about vision. What could the company look like, what could the possibility of my life and our envisioned future look like? And I found I had a guy, Cameron Harold, who was a COO of ours from about $2 million to $106 million in revenue of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. And he said, I can't think about vision, I can just execute. You come up with the vision, I’ll execute. And I said, you know what, that’s nonsense, of course you can think about vision.
So, I came up with this phrase, “Can you imagine,” and I would ask people what can you imagine? So, I taught Cameron if I wanted to prove he could think about vision, I said, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
And he starts thinking about it. What would that location look like? What's the weather like? Are there palm trees, is there wind blowing? What kind of drink is in your hand? Who is sitting beside you? Are you on a beach?
And he started to paint this massive, tropical vacation that he had every detail down to the water droplets going down the Corona from being so cold. Everybody has the ability to think about vision, but it’s asking yourself or getting someone else to ask you, what can you imagine?
A way we used it in the company was years ago we had this big wall. And I realized that Cameron had trouble thinking about vision and I wanted to teach others, so I took a big, empty white wall in our office, the junction, and I put this big vinyl decal on it that said, “Can you imagine?” And the rest of the wall was blank.
And then I left a bunch of markers and for people to just be like kids and create and think about things that they could imagine. And nobody was doing anything with it, so I put up on the wall on a big decal, I said, can you imagine being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show? And 14 months later, I was a guest onstage in Chicago on The Oprah Winfrey Show talking about my business. And people around me started to realize, wow, this can you imagine thing does work.
Brian: And I said, of course it does. Think big, dream, put it out there to the universe, and then make day by day, little mistakes, little failures towards making that dream a reality.
John: So, this is a phrase that you use, “Painted picture.” So, give us actionable steps for creating a painted picture of our own and envisioning our own future.
Brian: Yeah, so back to that dock in 1998, eight years into the business, a million in revenue. I'm in a doom loop, I join the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which has been so impactful for me, EO. I sit around with all these entrepreneurs and they’ve got $10 million-dollar business, $100 million-dollar businesses, way more glamorous and sexy than junk removal, and I started to feel depressed and down about what I had.
So, I decided to do an experiment, take myself out of the doom loop, pull out a piece of paper, one page, double-sided, and said, what could the future look like? And then I changed I to what will the future look like? And I started to write and I said we will be in the top 30 metros in North America, we will be the FedEx of junk removal.
I started to draw out what the culture looked like, and every little piece of the business from a destination standpoint of what it would look like, not how we’d get there.
My tangible advice is I sat down and read that painted picture and went, wow, this really works. I can share it with others, they either decide they're onboard or they're offboard, and it had a power of focusing towards a dream.
But my advice is how do you create your own? Is you sit down with a piece of paper, you find somewhere inspirational, a forest, a park, a beach, a quiet room, whatever works for you, and say, what can I imagine, where am I going to be, and start with a timeline. Write at the top a date, five years into the future, or three years into the future if five years is too overwhelming.
And start to write what your future will look like, but do not under any circumstance start to doubt yourself and say, but I don’t have the money, I don’t have the education. You're not trying to catch lightning in a bottle, you're not trying to come up with the perfect idea out of the games. You're just coming up with something that straight off the top of your head, straight from your heart, you can see.
And if anyone in your community wants to see one of our painted pictures, they can send me a message, go to Instagram @BrianScudamore, any of the social handles, and happy to share our painted picture just to show your audience how easy it is to actually create.
John: Fire Nation, just take a second and think about this. How do you reach your desired destination if you don’t even know where you're going and how to get there? I mean so many people, they're like, I want to be rich, I want to be successful, like I want this, I want that, but they literally have never even taken five seconds to sit down and think about what their path is to get there, envisioning their path, writing down their path, painting the picture of their path.
So, go to Brian Scudamore’s Instagram, hit him up on DM, comment on one of his things, like his stuff. I mean follow it because he is going to engage with you, Fire Nation, when you're doing these things.
So, Brian, I want now to talk about the WTF! Willing to Fail culture. How can we create one where we work in our businesses?
Brian: I think it’s talking to your teams, talking to your people, and say, I've gotta take some risks here. We’ve got to be okay as a culture making mistakes, trying new things and failing.
So, John, when you talked about you went to law school, you were chasing money, you were doing all these things, I would bet you'd say that those were “important” failures or changes in directions that brought you to the greatness and the success you’ve got in your life today.
John: Truth, truth, truth.
Brian: So, don’t be afraid. You know I talk to my kids, I talk to other peoples’ kids, and they're so worried about what they want to do, whether it’s go to school or take some online courses. Stop thinking about it. Just do something and then let, like the title of my book jumping out at me at the end, let the answer to what you want to do in life pop out at you as you're on a journey.
And it’s okay to change directions. One of the things I talk about in my book is commitment comes from – if you choose something and follow through, the passion comes from that commitment, not the other way around. People often think you have to start with a passion and commitment will follow. Totally disagree. Commit to something, to a direction, and once you just really sink in and find your path, then the passion follows. So, pick something, follow through.
John: Be action-oriented, Fire Nation. Take that step, take that action. And why, Brian? Why did you write WTF! Willing to Fail? What was the reason?
Brian: Yeah, so Roy H. Williams, he's the wizard of ads, is how he's known. He does all our radio creative and he's an absolute genius. He's got this campus in Austin and we were hanging out and year after year he’d bug me to write a book. And I said, Roy, finally, I just said, you know what, stop asking, I don’t want to write a book. My ego doesn’t need a book. A lot of entrepreneurs want to be an author and say, oh, yeah, I wrote a book. Well, I didn’t want that and I didn’t feel I even had the time.
And Roy said, no, no, you don’t get it. This isn't for you. This is for everyone else you have a chance to inspire. And I said, well, I don’t know if my story is good enough to inspire. He's like, absolutely, you're crazy, let’s do this.
He locked me in a room in his wizard’s tower for ten hours and hooked me up to a mic. He said, I'm gonna ask you stories, I'm gonna pull all this out, and then we’re gonna take the transcript and you and I are gonna back and forth start to write and create this story.
He said, you have to write a story because you’ve had 30 years of mistakes. Why should others have to make the same hard mistakes you have and have the hard learning the hard way? Why not make it easy? Imagine if you can inspire one reader with WTF! Willing to Fail, one person that you can have a change and an impact on their life for the positive. Is that worth doing the book? Absolutely.
So, we did the book and it’s been out since November and I'm getting feedback, emails, DMs from people I've never met, talking about the impact of just going, wow, finally someone says it’s okay to fail. Because I’m failing hard right now, but I do believe thanks to your book that it’s going to get me to a better place. And that’s the faith you have to have in the WTF! philosophy.
John: The tagline for WTF! is How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success. Why did you choose those words as your tagline?
Brian: I think there's a little bit of magic in that statement, that it is a key. It’s that golden key. It’s the Willy Wonka golden ticket to freedom, to happiness, to success, that if everything you do you go, okay, another opportunity to fail.
So, I do a lot of public speaking, but I avoided it in high school, I avoided it in college. I would call in sick. I would do anything I possibly could to avoid speaking. If I was told that I didn’t show up to a presentation, I would fail that class. Well, hey, I’d fail that class because that’s how terrified I was.
And then one day I realized, you know what, somebody asked me to tell my story to 400 young entrepreneurs. I was about 24 years old, I was terrified for a week ahead, but I said I'm gonna do this. What's the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen if I get a panic attack, I walk offstage, everybody laughs, we’re done. Who cares?
And so I started to embrace this whole it’s okay to fail. Getting up in front of a stage and making a jerk of yourself, whatever happens, it doesn’t matter because you just learn from that moment to say, why was I so scared, why did I feel that way? Could I start again?
And in fact in my situation, it gave me the confidence. I spoke to 400 people. Halfway through my talk I started to get a little bit of literally a panic attack because I used to suffer from them. And I said, no, no, I got this, I can do this. And I stuck it out and I made it happen and it gave me the confidence where now I can speak in front of thousands of people and there's not an issue and I feel fired up and engaged.
So, again, it’s okay to fail. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. I grew up with a father who is a liver transplant surgeon who has done more school than anyone I've ever met on the planet. And he put pressure on me or at least – I shouldn’t say he put pressure. I felt pressure from him to always succeed, but I think he would agree with me now in his late 60s that it’s okay to mess up.
You don’t want to mess up as a liver transplant surgeon. Let’s be clear about, but it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you reflect and get introspective and say, what did I learn in that WTF! moment?
John: That’s why it’s important for them to work on cadavers because if they're gonna fail, that’s where they want to fail.
John: So, Brian, you dropped value bomb after value bomb. I really like to kind of have a nice little sum up section where you kind of say, okay, we’ve really talked about a cool theme, which is being willing to fail. What's one key takeaway that you want to make sure our audience really gets from our chat today?
Brian: I think I'd love people to understand that I believe that there's a great difference, there's a big, big difference between making a living and making a life. And that I love my life so much because I've understood that it’s about meaning, it’s about purpose, it’s about making mistakes that I can tell those stories to my grandchildren one day when I've got them.
I want people to understand that this journey in life is about making a life. When it’s too focused on money, it’s not the right – money doesn’t bring happiness. There was that movie and the Ben Affleck quote, you know whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness, doesn’t have any. Absolutely wrong, right? We know – we laugh at that statement because we know it’s wrong.
Think about what you want to do in life, think about what you want to share as stories with your friends, your family, your grandkids. Think about the meaning, making meaning versus money. That’s the key to happiness. People envision money and things as buying toys, which will give them happiness. If they’ve had any years on this life, on this planet, they know that that’s not the way it works.
So, I would leave people with, your audience, think about how you can make meaning, not money, the money will follow. And think about the difference, think about that word, life, versus living because there's a massive difference.
John: Fire Nation, do you want to make a living or do you want to make a life? True question to ask yourself. Now, Brian, WTF! Willing to Fail, where would you want Fire Nation to go to learn more and to scoop up this gem of a book?
Brian: Biggest bookstore on the planet. Get online, go to Amazon, and buy the book. It’s an easy read. I wrote it for an audience who could really take the book and go, you know what, this isn't gonna sit on my bedside table. It’s one that I'm gonna pick up and as I get through the first few pages, I'm gonna get through the entire book and be inspired.
So, I hope that people find one nugget, at minimum, in my story, in our story, and that they go on sharing it with others.
John: Fire Nation, follow Brian Scudamore on Instagram, send him a message, say, what’s up, like his stuff, and go check out his book on Amazon, WTF! Willing to Fail because you, Fire Nation, are the average of the five people you’ve been hanging out with. And you're hanging out with BS and JLD today, so keep up the heat.
And head over to EOFire.com. If you type Brian in the search bar, the show notes page from today’s episode will come up with links with everything. Plus, you can go back to episode 1290 where Brian comes on, tells his story, and drops some more value bombs in different areas a thousand episodes ago. So, really cool to hear both us 1,000+ days ago chatting it up.
So, thank you, Brian, for sharing your truth with Fire Nation today, brother. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Brian: Thank you. You're a rock star, John. This was a lot of fun.
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