In 2001 Darren LaCroix, The World Champion of Public Speaking, out-spoke 25,000 contestants from 14 countries to win that title. That was just a benchmark. Since that victory, he has traveled the world demystifying the process of creating a powerful speech.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Darren was putting all his chips on a move that never came to fruition. A painful but informative story!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Entitlement vs Responsibility… It’s critical that you are on the right side of this fence, Fire Nation, and Darren shares why!
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Small Business Resource
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Best Business Book
- Made to Stick by Chip Heath
Darren LaCroix: I am. It’s a perfect day for ignition.
John Lee Dumas: Two-thousand-one, Darren, the world champion of public speaking out spoke 25,000 contestants from 14 countries to win that title. That was just a benchmark. Since that victory, he’s traveled the world demystifying the process of creating a powerful speech.
Darren, say what’s up to Fire Nation, and what’s go9ing on in your world right now?
Darren LaCroix: As the world is changing, so is business, as you know. I love the idea of what you’re doing and how you’re helping people.
John Lee Dumas: Cool.
Darren LaCroix: Entrepreneurs need help. We are sick people. We run our businesses, and sometimes our businesses run us. I think because everything is changing and the speed of change is happening faster, we need programs just like this to keep us on track, and see what successful people are doing in all areas so we can know the tips and what matters, and where not to waste our time because, as we all know, time is our most valuable asset, and it’s what we do with it, and the tools we choose that determine whether we’ll be successful or not.
John Lee Dumas: Darren, I want to figure out right now how you use your time because I’m going to do what’s called the One-Minute Mindset. I’m going to have you share five insights from within you of what your days look like, of what your strengths, weaknesses, habits, all these things are. So take about a minute each to answer these questions, No. 1 being ideally, what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Darren LaCroix: My first minutes of my day, and I hope this is okay to say, is I do a little bit of meditation, a little reading from the Bible, whatever I do to get myself on track. I don’t push my beliefs on other people, but answering the question openly and honestly, I spend some time. I think it sets the tone for the say. We’ll find out, as Zig Ziglar says, what the other half is doing when we listen to the news. It’s good to know what both sides are doing.
I think it’s helpful. Then I also take a walk first thing, before I even eat breakfast or anything like that just to kind of take in a good breath of air, and then come back and start hitting it. I start jumping on emails.
One of the things I think is insightful that is helpful for professional speakers, and I know you have a wide range of entrepreneurs, but for me as a professional speaker, I had to get really clear. Whenever I bring someone new into work with me, I sit them down and say, “Here’s my best use of time.”
No. 1 is me on stage speaking anywhere and everywhere I can. No. 2 is creating content, free content, whether it’s video for YouTube or articles. As an expert, this is how I’m perceived in the marketplace. No. 3 is creating products. Creating products in ways I can help educate people because I train other speakers how to be better speakers on the business side and the skills side, so I need to be creating programs that are constantly better, and multiplying my time.
I tell my office manager, “Those are my three best uses of time. Your job is to keep me doing those three things.”
John Lee Dumas: I love how dialed in you are on your three things. Fire Nation, fi you’re like me right now, you’re like, “Whoa, what are my three things?” Get dialed in. Really figure it out because time is your most previous resource, and you want to be using it wisely at all times.
Darren, you and I are one and the same, my friend. The first thing I do before anything, after I kind of get my head straight, is take that walk, get that breath of fresh air, get that blood flowing, critical. I’ve loved it now for about three months.
Darren, you have a lot of strengths, and we’re going to get to one of them in a second, but what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Darren LaCroix: I guess allowing myself to get distracted and delegation. I want to do everything myself, which is one of an entrepreneur’s big challenges. What do we delegate, and what do we do ourselves? I think my biggest challenge is trying not to do everything and paying the pros to do what they can do better than I in less time, and really use delegation and my time better. Even though I’m clear on my three goals, and my three priorities, I still get caught up in doing my accounting, and doing emails.
What I’m doing this year, my big change is I’m restructuring from a product-based business – CDs and DVDs – to an online university. Eventually, it’s going to really pay off, but it’s been a year where I took less business sales. My business was about half this year because I’m completely rebranding and restructuring my whole business to stay current and reinvent myself. I’ve got to stop beating myself up that my sales are down. Yeah. Guess what. A year from now, two years from now it’s going to pay tenfold.
John Lee Dumas: Big time. I honestly – I’m 35 years old. I don’t even know what I would do if somebody handed me a DVD. I have nothing to do with it. I just can’t. I’d be like, “Okay. Let’s go play Frisbee.”
Weapons of mass distraction, Darren, they’re everywhere. They’re everywhere for us, and if we let ourselves go down those holes, we may never going to back out. Then we all have, especially as entrepreneurs, a superman complex where we’re like, “I can do everything better than anybody can do anything when it comes to my stuff.” When we say, “You know what? I’m going to take somebody on, train them to the best of my abilities and take that off my plate, so I can leverage and scale my time and my strengths,” that’s where the real success lies.
Darren, share your biggest strength.
Darren LaCroix: My biggest strength is I try to be like a pit-bull that when I’m adamant about something, I stick to it. I hold my place. I find the people who will help me. I don’t let anybody talk me out of it, which could also be a weakness sometimes, once I’m very clear that this is what I have to do.
For one thing, where that showed up last year was when I was doing a European speaking tour with one of my speaker buddies, Ed Tate, and we were teaching public speaking throughout Europe, 12 different cities. It was really cool, but he had a digital product, and I really didn’t have a digital product.
I’m having my assistant ship CDs and DVDs from the U.S. to anybody who wanted them and purchased them, but I realized, “Oh, my gosh. My assistant, I just bought her a brand-new MacBook Air, and she doesn’t have a slot drive. My girlfriend, she has a PC. She doesn’t have a slot drive.” I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m in trouble.” Once I had that revelation, I was like, “That’s it. I don’t care what happens. CDs and DVDs, I might keep some around for my old-school customers, but I have got to rebuild my business.”
Once I made that decision, I tend to still beat myself up once in a while, but I got to go back to, “No. This is good.” Then my girlfriend is a branding expert, and she looked at my materials, and she’s like, “You’ve got no brand here. There’s no consistency with any of your programs.” Retooling my business and realizing this is something I have to embrace. Once I do, that’s it. Get out of my way. I don’t care who you are. I’m going to get it done.
John Lee Dumas: As we talked about, Darren, at the beginning of this call, you’re like, “I love your Skype image there.” It’s a picture of me on fire. That’s my branding. Everything you see of “Entrepreneur on Fire” is a flame, or is igniting, or something along those lines. Brand consistency, Fire Nation. Even you, Fire Nation. I call you Fire Nation. I mean, it’s consistent across the board. Darren, you’re moving in the right direction, my friend.
Let’s be honest. Mediation, prayer, your morning walks, you have some amazing habits. What’s a habit that you wish you had?
Darren LaCroix: One of my friends here in town who’s an author, he came up with this – he’s also a pastor, but he’s a brilliant writer. He said this term once. He said, “Are you trying or are you training?” It sounds like what? Trying is like I could try and run a marathon tomorrow, but even if you gave me $1 million, it wouldn’t happen. I’m not in that good of shape that I could run that far. But, if set a goal a year from now and trained, and what he defines it as is training is doing something today so that tomorrow you can do what you can’t do today.
To directly answer your question, I need to be better at training myself, or create the habit of training myself to be better at internet marketing. It’s changed so much. Two or three years ago, I invested $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 to learn from experts. So much has changed, and I’m still doing things the old way. I need to get the new habit back of retraining and becoming a sponge again to how internet marketing works this year.
John Lee Dumas: Definitely a theme, Darren, is being developed with what’s going on in this interview. I think it’s going to be very helpful for Fire Nation to see how you’re evolving as an entrepreneur going from one generation to the next generation, and continue to evolve as a businessman or businesswoman. That is huge. We always need to be evolving, eyes wide open.
Darren LaCroix: One of my catchphrases is resolve to evolve.
John Lee Dumas: Resolve to evolve. Fire Nation, are you resolved to evolve? Darren, we talk on “Entrepreneur on Fire” about your journey as an entrepreneur. You’ve had some great times, but you’ve had some tough times too. What I want you to do is tell us the story of what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. Really take us there.
Darren LaCroix: Thank you. That’s a phenomenal question, and that comes to mind easily. I think we’ve got to remember as entrepreneurs that we have to have some humble pie, and go back and talk to our mentors when things aren’t working.
John Lee Dumas: Lend me some humble pie. Let me be honest.
Darren LaCroix: Yes. Two or three years ago, I came to a point where I was just losing money every month. I started hiring a couple more people to delegate, but I wasn’t great as a manager, and I was just so excited to delegate, but I wasn’t keeping track of what they were doing, and was it paying off? I kind of had blinders on.
Even though my business was going, and money was coming in, more was going out every month. I really dug myself into a hole. Jim Cathcart, who is a legend in the speaking industry – I just called people up. I said, “I need some help here. I’m running out of money, and I don’t know how I’m going to pay my mortgage next month.” He asked me some questions. The question that kind of went right in my face was, “Tell me how much you’re bringing in a month in your business.” I said, “Between $30,000.00 and $40,000.00 a month.” He said, “You know, Darren, some people could live on that.”
John Lee Dumas: Whoa.
Darren LaCroix: It was like a slap across the face. Here I wanted more income when my problem was I wasn’t managing my outflow. At that time, I had an office manager who was very loyal, and very hardworking. I said, “Look. My business is out of money. I’m going to pay you personally out of my personal cash if I have to, to keep you around for a couple of months.” I had to let go of my two other employees.
I have a small business. I only had a few employees, but I had to let go of the other two. They were like, “What could I do? You could owe me the money.” I said, “I do not owe anybody any money. Thank you. You’ve done great, but I’ve got nothing.” It helped me get rid of them because I had no choice. It just forced me to take a hard look at my own business, and my profitability. The fact is I learned to delegate, but I didn’t learn to delegate properly.
I took a Dave Ramsey course. You may know of him, a financial guru. I started taking a hard look at everything I was doing. Thank God for that course. It’s amazing how humility will get you to take a look at what you’re doing right and wrong.
John Lee Dumas: It’s never easy, Fire Nation, to let go those people who are working for your company because they put their trust, their faith in you as their employer, as somebody who’s putting bread on their table.
To have to look them in the eye and say, “This just isn’t working for X, Y, and Z,” it’s not easy, but that’s what we as entrepreneurs need to learn how to do is make the tough decisions because you still owe those other couple of employees that you are able to keep on, you owe them as well instead of taking the whole ship down at once. Really critical to realize that the tough, tough decisions have to be made, and the earlier you can rip that Band-Aid off often is better.
Darren, we like to tell a second story. This is going to be a little easier, and maybe more fun for you to tell: your aha moment, a light bulb that went on at some point in your journey. You’ve had a lot, my friend, but which one moment specifically do you think is going to resonate with our listeners, Fire Nation?
Darren LaCroix: One specifically comes to mind which literally launched my career. Going back to the good habit and bad habit, my good habit is that I put blinders on, and I don’t look either way. My bad habit is I put blinders on, and I don’t look any other way.
For me, the story you’re asking about is really what started it all. I was an entrepreneur right out of college. I owned a Subway franchise, a Subway sandwich shop, and they opened another Subway franchise right down the road from me. I was mortified.
Even though I had paid a lawyer to look at the contract, and the lawyer told me, “They can open a Subway right down the road if they want,” and I thought, “They wouldn’t do that to me. I’m a nice guy.” They thought, understandably so by their numbers, that there was a McDonald’s near mine, and there was a McDonald’s near where they were opening the new one, and so understandably so, if it could support two McDonald’s, it could support two Subways.
Well, it didn’t. They got a percentage. I don’t fault Subway for this. This is my own challenge. The location that I chose, I chose it, and it was supposed to be a traffic light put in because there was so much traffic, but it was hard and challenging to get in and out, so if the traffic light went in, boom. I would have an amazing business. It never went in, but that was my fault because I was Joe Optimistic.
When I was mad at everybody, and when I had – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jim Rohn, but Jim Rohn has a great story that he went to his mentor. His mentor had asked him to write out a list of all the reasons he wasn’t successful. He wrote out this long list. His mentor looked at it and said, “One problem, Jim. Your name ain’t on it.”
John Lee Dumas: Whoa.
Darren LaCroix: That was a big aha for me. I realized that I chose the franchise. I chose the location. I chose how I run the business. Bottom line is it was a big aha that I think the biggest thing – and one of the biggest challenges today with the youth, the younger people, is that sense of entitlement as opposed to responsibility. My biggest aha and what made me an entrepreneur is being 100 percent responsible for my actions, my choices, the good things, and the bad things.
Because of that low point in my life – so I had the aha, and this is kind of attached to it, is that I was listening to a motivational tape of Brian Tracy. He said, “What would you dare to dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” In my head popped, “I’d be a comedian. How cool would that be?” Then a little doubting voice said, “That’s not you, Darren. You’re not funny.” That wasn’t the question.
John Lee Dumas: I’m laughing.
Darren LaCroix: The question was what would you dare to dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail? I was at such a low point in my life with Subway. I was living at home with my parents. I was out of business school. I thought I knew everything. I said, “You know what? I’m at such a low point. I have nothing to lose,” so I made a pact with myself that I’m going to try this once. It may not work, but I don’t want to live with the regret of wondering what if?
The good thing I did was I had never been to a standup comedy show live, so I went to a show. I watched a show, and I asked one of the comedians. I said, “Hi. I want to do this. What do I need to do?” He asked me a question. He said, “Are you funny?” I said no. He said, “Good.” I said, “Good? What do you mean, good?” He said, “Darren, nobody’s funny at the beginning. Being funny with your friends and being funny in front of a group of strangers is a different skillset, but that one can be learned.”
He had my attention. He said two things. No. 1, you need to go get the book. As entrepreneurs, whatever challenge we’re having, we need to remember somebody overcame this challenge. We need to become a sponge, and go get the book. I got the book. No. 2, he said, “Go to open mic nights. Watch other people who are just starting out.” I did that. I watched people. These people were horrible, and it inspired me. I’m like, “I can do that.”
I studied for two months. I went over the book. I read the book. I did the exercises. Then in 1992, Stitches Boston, Mass, I went up for my very first open mic night, and it was horrible. I was so nervous. In fact, I show a video clip of it in my keynote speeches to this day.
John Lee Dumas: I have to see it.
Darren LaCroix: To show people how bad it is. There was one moment I was shaking so bad. I was telling this joke about Dr. Robert Goddard who had launched the first liquid fuel rocket in history in my hometown. I was making light of his first rocket launch, and his rocket went off. I said it went vertically, but I was so nervous that my body language – I crossed my hand from the left to the right making a horizontal motion.
I said vertically. I did horizontal with my hand, and I just looked down in disgust, and I said, “Awe, shoot.” All of a sudden, everybody laughed. I looked around like, “What happened? What did I say?” Obviously that wasn’t my intention. It wasn’t in my routine in my script. I realized that for one brief moment, I became myself on stage. I just became real, and people connected with that.
As I walked offstage, this man put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, man. It’s just your first time.” I’m thinking, “Don’t worry? It’s just my first time. Did you see what I did? I got a laugh.”
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, a chuckle.
Darren LaCroix: And that’s all I needed. Here’s what I did, which was the aha looking back now. I’ve focused on that one thing that worked. I got rid of everything else that didn’t work, and I made it a passion to duplicate what did work. It took me years to even understand why they laughed, but I took every class that I could. I got every mentor that would give me any time, any insights, and I just became a sponge. I never looked back. Standup comedy led me to speaking. Now I thank God every day for what I get to do for a living.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, there’s a lot of knowledge bombs that were dropped throughout his aha moments. I do want to jump back too. You said it really near the beginning, but it really jumped out at me and is something I do want to stress upon Fire Nation. It’s entitlement versus responsibility. It is such a problem we have in this world right now. So many people feel entitled for handouts. They feel entitled that they should get a leg up for some reason.
Fire Nation, it’s time for you listening – if you haven’t already – and in a lot of ways you have because just pressing the play button on this episode, you are taking responsibility. You’re not pressing play on the Snookie podcast. You’re pressing play on “Entrepreneur on Fire.” Keep it up. Keep taking responsibility for your life, like Darren has, like I have, like so many other successful entrepreneurs have, and like many Fire Nation has. Incredible stuff.
Darren, I’m not going to let you go anywhere quite yet because we are about to enter the lightning round. Before we do, let’s take a minute to thank your sponsors.
Darren, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Darren LaCroix: Sounds fun. Let’s do it.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Darren LaCroix: Self-confidence, belief in myself, and unworthiness.
John Lee Dumas: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Darren LaCroix: The student is more important than the mentor.
John Lee Dumas: Whoa. Expand upon that really quick.
Darren LaCroix: Real quick, if you think of what’s more important, the mentor or the student, the student, if they find a horrible mentor, needs to take responsibility to find a better mentor if that one doesn’t work or isn’t really leading them in the right direction. It is us as the true student that is the important aspect.
John Lee Dumas: Back to the responsibility. I love that. What’s a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Darren LaCroix: Taking the time for appreciating every time I get to be onstage, and honoring my audience every time.
John Lee Dumas: Just that deep breath, taking it in, looking around, excited and then ignited. What’s an internet resource, like Evernotes, that you would recommend to our listeners?
Darren LaCroix: I’m a fan of www.Rhymer.com, free website. When you’re coming up with catchphrases for marketing, it’s a way to use words to come up with foundational phrases such as resolve to evolve. We need these little sound bites to make us memorable and to help us market our business. www.Rhymer.com is something I highly recommend, and it’s free.
John Lee Dumas: Cool. If you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Darren LaCroix: I would say Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. I love that book. It’s about telling your message, and it takes urban legends, and dissects them as to why they become urban legends because the story is so sticky. As entrepreneurs, whether you’re a professional speaker or just are marketing your business, we need to figure out our message and our story behind our business.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible. If you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at www.EOFireBook.com.
Darren, this next question is the last of the lightning 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 are taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Darren LaCroix: I would look at the new world and figure out how to help people in this world. I think an entrepreneur is someone who helps someone, and the side effect is the profit. I derived that from T. Harv Eker who said an entrepreneur is a person who solves problems for people at a profit. Knowing I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and my faith, the more I can help people, the more my value would go up in the new world, whether there’s money or not money. I think my heart is to try to help people first, and the money is the side effect.
John Lee Dumas: Darren, let’s end today on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Darren LaCroix: Be an intentional sponge. Don’t just be a sponge. We’re all sponges. The people you spend the time with, they affect you. Jim Rohn said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Take a look at your five. Who are you sponging? If you’ve got the TV going on in the background, stop. Get some more education. Get some inspiration. Do something. Be aware of your time. Be an intentional sponge. That’s the only way you can be a successful entrepreneur.
If people want to connect with me, I have my online university that I’m still building, but it’s up and going. It’s called Stage Time University to help experts in the business of speaking as well as the skill of speaking, to connect with their audience, www.StageTimeUniversity.com.
John Lee Dumas: Darren, you upstaged me as I always end with my Jim Rohn quotes. Fire Nation, you know are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with Darren LaCroix and JLD today, so keep up that heat and head over to www.EOFire.com. Just type “Darren” in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with everything we’ve been talking about, Rhymer, Made to Stick, Stage Time University. You name it, and it will be there.
Darren, thank you my friend, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Darren LaCroix: Thanks for having me, and remember. You reap what you soak. Be a sponge.
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