Mitchell Levy is The AHA Guy at AHAthat, which is a super social self-publishing book platform for those wanting a megaphone! Additionally, he has 4 publishing companies that have published over 800 books and is an International Bestselling Author with fifty eight business books.
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3 Value Bombs
1) An AHA moment should be an event that gives a person a new framework to view their life.
2) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket—have multiple revenue streams.
3) Ask the people around you who they think you are and what it is you do.
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[01:04] – Mitchell has started 20+ companies, sat on the board of a public company for 9 years, and ran a CEO networking group
[01:26] – For fun, him and his family take 4 to 5 week holidays in Europe
[02:15] – His area of expertise is in AHA moments – he gives people a framework to think about life in a different way
[02:29] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: The biggest issue is making AHA moments come quickly. It should be about giving as much as you possibly can to somebody, so they can have a new framework to do things a different way
[03:35] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Mitchell was running conferences and four different executive business programs for the universities of Silicon Valley. One day, in 2001, the stock market collapsed and nobody liked ecommerce anymore. Mitchell was Mr. ECommerce, and so his revenue from ecommerce activities went to zero overnight
[04:31] – Always have multiple revenue streams
[04:35] – Realize there are things that happen to your business that are NOT your fault
[05:04] – When his revenue went to zero, Mitchell relied on his speaking rates and his company, CEO Networking
[06:41] – You never know what will take off and what will fall down
[07:20] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: In 2005, Mitchell started his first publishing company and the goal was to make it easier for someone to write a book. The books were 25K words with a 2-4 month timeline to publish. When people published their THINKaha books, they would get 80 copies and an iPhone app that would allow messages to be shared on social media. They dumped the app and created AHAthat so people could write their books in 8 hours. They also had the option to upgrade and publish their books on different platforms and in different forms (soft and hard copy)
[10:06] – Have a good understanding of who you are and what you do by asking others
[11:04] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “The way life is changing and who we are becoming”
[13:14] – A book is the new business card – it distinguishes you
[16:41] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I didn’t really think about working for myself and doing the entrepreneurial thing”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “It’s figuring out what’s going to make me happy”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Having a good balance between work, life and play”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – AHAthat
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Selling The Wheel – “a phenomenal book that helps you understand who sales people are and what type of a sales person is appropriate for what situation you’re in”
[20:32] – Share content!
Mitchell Levy: Oh, I’ve got aha moments coming out of everywhere.
John Lee Dumas: Mitchell is The AHA Guy at AHAthat, which is a super social, self-publishing book platform for those wanting a megaphone. Additionally, he has four publishing companies that have published over 800 books and is an international bestselling author with 58 business books.
Mitchell, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Mitchell Levy: I’ve done lots of fun things. I live in Silicon Valley, so there’s always opportunities to do new things. I’ve started 20-plus companies. As you heard in other episodes, and as entrepreneurs recognize, sometimes companies do well and sometimes they don’t, so you need to have multiple irons in the fire. Additionally, I’ve sat on the board of a public company for nine years. I’ve run a CEO-networking group. I certainly have lots of fun.
I work my little fanny off, and what I do for fun, a wife and a son. My son’s in college at the moment, and my wife and I – and our son Antony’s 19, doesn’t always come with us – we take four to five weeks’ holiday in Europe once a year, and that’s always a good way to sit back and work the rest of the time and get prepared for that. And I think the cool part is when you sit back and let yourself strategize about the company and let your people run the company for you, it gives you an opportunity to figure out what makes sense moving forward. And so, I’ve done that many times, and we’ve – actually, 17 years so far.
John Lee Dumas: Mitchell, I wanna know this. You do a lot of things really well, but if you could just sum up in one sentence your area of expertise, what would that be?
Mitchell Levy: I am The AHA Guy. I like turning on light bulbs for those that are in the room, giving them a framework to think about life in a different way.
John Lee Dumas: Mitchell, what’s something that we don’t know about aha moments that, as entrepreneurs, we probably should?
Mitchell Levy: I think the biggest issue on an aha moment is making it quick, making it soundful, impactful, getting the opportunity for the person listening or the person who has the aha moment to recognize that there’s a way they could think about the world in a different way. And it happens that if your platform or your service can be part of the influence of helping them reach the other way or achieve their goals, that’s so much the better, and that’s what the aha moment is, is to be able to give everything you possibly can to somebody who then has a new framework to do things in a different way that’s gonna be better for them.
John Lee Dumas: I love that. Fire Nation, aha moments, they’re everywhere. Reach out, grab yours. And, Mitchell, having the kind of personality that you have, the kind of optimism, the kind of enthusiasm, people may think, “This guy’s never had a bad day,” but we both know that’s not the case. So, let’s talk about not just a bad day but your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. Mitchell, take us to that moment. Tell us that story.
Mitchell Levy: It was during the dot-com days. Esther Dyson called me Mr. Ecommerce. I was running conferences for Comdex. I ran four different executive business programs to Silicon Valley universities. My speaking rate, my consulting rate was really high, and I had a lot of business.
And one day, if you remember, around 2001, there was the dot bust. The stock market collapsed. Nobody liked the word ecommerce anymore. Everything went bust. And my whole persona, everything I was doing, was centered around being Mr. Ecommerce. My revenue from ecommerce activities went from a very nice number to zero almost overnight.
And if you don’t mind – I know this is not the forum – let me just give you the quick lesson learned out of that. One, we always have to have multiple revenue streams. Two, you’ve gotta realize that sometimes [blank] hits the fan and it’s not your fault. And so, the recognition that it wasn’t my fault that the money wasn’t coming in anymore helped me continue to move on to all the other things I’ve done since.
John Lee Dumas: Well, let’s maybe finish that through. What happened when the money went down to zero? You looked around, and no revenue’s coming in. You freak out a little bit. What’s the next step?
Mitchell Levy: Well, in this case, I actually had a – my speaking rates, they were small compared to today’s standards, but it was 7,500 keynotes, 5,000 a day consulting, and I had this small little company called CEO Networking, where we were getting CEOs in a room to bounce ideas off of each other, and it was somewhere around 50,000 a year I was making with that, and it was just a little side project. All of a sudden, that 50,000, which was a little blip compared to everything else I was making, turned out to be a large amount.
And so, having multiple irons in the fire, in this particular case, I had a focus on CEO networking and the networking group, had a focus on consulting but consulting in things that were not ecommerce anymore because people didn’t want to hear about the word ecommerce, and then, prepping myself and my company for the eventual time in which I knew ecommerce was gonna be coming back. So, it’s trying to figure out how you stay ahead of the market and, of course, how do you fund yourself during times when things are not going well.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you really never know what the market’s gonna do. You never really know what’s coming next. You don’t know what’s around the corner, so always taking action, always trying new things. I love that story about how, back in 2006, Odeo, which was a company for podcasting by the way, was like, “Hmm, this podcasting thing really hasn’t taken off yet,” back in 2006. “Let’s try this little messenger app that we got going on here, and maybe we’ll see if that works out.” And, by the way, that was Twitter.
So, you just never know what thing is going to take off, or when something kind of drops off a cliff in a bad way, what’s gonna be that next thing that keeps you going or is that next knob that you can turn to keep that faucet running. So, always be having those irons in the fire, like Mitchell says. I think that’s a great way to put it.
And for you, Mitchell, that’s one of the great ideas that you’ve had, diversifying your revenue, having things going on at once so that you can really make the most out of the least, etc., but what’s another one of the great ideas that you’ve had throughout your life? You’ve had a lot of aha moments. You’re The AHA Guy. Take us to one of those aha moments. Tell us that story.
Mitchell Levy: In 2005, I started my first book publishing company. We’ve published over 800 books. And the goal was always to make it easier for somebody who wants to write a book. And so, our first company, Happy About, the books were 25,000 words. It was two to four months to publish, versus years in the old days. I then created a series with a woman by the name of Laura Lowell called 42 Rules, and it was comprised of 42 500-word articles. So, you’ve been blogging for a year? The book’s done.
Then, created a book series with a guy by the name of Raji Seti called ThinkAHA, and the ThinkAHA series was 140-byte-sized quotes, or basically, if you’ve been tweeting, you’ve got your ThinkAHA books done. So, as a publisher, what was happening is when people would publish their physical ThinkAHA book – we did about 80 of them – we then created an iPhone app so that any of those aha messages can be shared on social media.
Well, when I morphed again, one more time, back into consulting, I became the first Thought Leader Architect in the world, and when we go into corporations today, we turn their experts into recognized thought leaders. When I started doing that, I looked at the decision I made, and I had my aha moment.
So, as a publisher, it made a lot of sense to publish a physical book first and then turn it into an eBook. As a Thought Leader Architect helping companies figure stuff out, I looked at the publishing decision and I said, “Aha! That’s a bad decision. Let’s fix that.” So, what happened, I threw out the iPhone app because, of course, we all think, when we create an iPhone app, it takes off like wildfire and everyone’s gonna use it.
So, we threw that out, and we created a web-based app, and it’s now the company we have called AHAthat. And what’s interesting is we now have a platform that, instead of taking – it still took people 60 to 80 hours to write a ThinkAHA book. We’ve had 300 authors write their aha book in eight hours or less.
So, I borrowed same process you have. It’s a very structured approach. It’s an eight-step process. 300 people have written their books in eight hours or less. And then, if they wanna upgrade to PDF, Kindle, paperback, hardcopy, they can, but doing the eBook first gives people a ton of flexibility, and the aha moment was now building a company around not just having a ThinkAHA brand, one of many imprints, but rather having a social media-enabled eBook platform where we now have over 750,000 users and 40,000 pieces of content people can share, and it’s a win-win situation for everybody, the authors whose content is there as well as anyone who comes to the platform and starts sharing content.
That was a pretty good aha moment for me.
John Lee Dumas: So, Mitchell, what do you wanna make sure our listeners walk away with from that story?
Mitchell Levy: The important part is having a good understanding of who you are and what you do, and sometimes the best way to do that is getting input from others. So, whether you have an advisory board or not makes sense. Whether or not you have a mentor today or you are mentoring somebody else makes sense. Because, notice for me, I ended up putting on a different hat when life changed.
And so, now, I make sure that I’m continually surrounding myself with an advisory board and people who I can mentor because when you wear different hats, when you’re both the mentee and the mentor, you get to look at life in a different way. And sometimes, your go-to-market strategy needs to change and you need to see it from somebody else’s eyes.
John Lee Dumas: Mitchell, I feel like you’re excited about a lot of things. You’re just that kind of guy, and I think that’s a really positive thing. You have that mindset of abundance. You get fired up. But what’s the one thing that you’re most excited about right now?
Mitchell Levy: The way life is changing and who we’re becoming. So many people have a megaphone. So many people can actually share who they are and what they do. And what’s happening in the transformation of who we are and where we’re going, there’s not just a handful of thought leaders. There’s a whole series of experts who we are going to get to know, like, and trust. And what I’m fired up about is go back to that personal branding space, and that is, when you go to do something, whether or not it’s to build a website, sell a product, create ecommerce on your site, whatever product or service, whatever it is that you wanna do, what’s the first thing you do when you think about that?
Well, you’re gonna go to one of your friends who’s done it. Now, that friend could be a really good friend who spent time learning it, or it could be somebody who has become friendly. You listen to five or ten of these EOFire interviews, you listen to JLD five times, you’re gonna go to John and ask him, “Hey, how do you do this?” whether it’s the online John or the one in person.
And so, what happens and what I like is we now are looking for the person who is that expert, the person who we, like I said, we know, like, and trust, and the absolute best way to create that expert is to write the book, and the absolute best way to write a book is to either spend eight hours writing it yourself or we could interview you for two hours and then write your book.
And so, I’m absolutely fired up by helping people have this asset, either a social media eBook or a physical book. And then, the partners that I’m working with right now are doing the most important element, because it’s not just about the book. It is about this asset called a book to close business, to generate leads, to generate revenue, to show you’re the expert so you can get more business. I am very excited about where the world is moving, what it is we need to do, and the platform I have in place to help make that happen.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, a book is, in a way, like the new business card because for us, as entrepreneurs, having a book, it’s not like the most cutting-edge thing in the world. It’s not like that next Facebook Live or Snapchat or all these new, fancy things that are coming out here, but what it does is it distinguishes you. It says, “Hey, this person was able to get their stuff together enough so that they could actually publish a book and get it out there in the world.”
One of my mentors from back in the day, Michael Stelzner of Social Media Marketing World, he won’t even let people come speak at his conference unless they have a book published, not because he knows that that’s gonna make them some great speaker, but he knows that that means that they put in the effort to actually get something like that done and accomplished. It’s like back in the ‘90s, you would get hired for a job with a college degree, not because people really cared, necessarily, that you went to college because you didn’t learn that much in college per se, but they knew that to be the kind of person that would graduate, that would get their BA, that kind of prequalifies you for that process.
Now, Mitchell has been dropping value bombs thus far, and he’s got some more coming in the Lightning Rounds, which we’re gonna be breaking down when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Mitchell, are you ready to rock the Lightning Rounds?
Mitchell Levy: You bet. I’m ready.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Mitchell Levy: When I started working for traditional companies, I hadn’t really thought about working for myself and doing the entrepreneurial thing, and it turns out I think the one benefit one gets from having mentors or getting that aha moment or – I used to say “turning the light bulb on,” now it’s “getting that aha moment” – it’s really about getting the framework, and the framework is, “How can I live in a world where I’m in control of my destiny, and how can I do it in such a way where I can support my family and support my lifestyle?”
And once you share that framework, once you get that and it really becomes you, it becomes a lot easier. So, for me, it was simply I bumped into a mentor when I was working for a corporation. It was actually my boss’s boss at Sun. He gave me a framework. I didn’t actually initially think the framework would bring me to entrepreneurship. And then, I think probably the biggest thing people don’t do, you gotta listen to the present. You gotta listen to the opportunities that are available. And all of a sudden, these opportunities started opening up the door, and, voila, I started doing it and haven’t looked back.
John Lee Dumas: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Mitchell Levy: It’s figuring out what’s gonna make me happy. I think when you work for a company, the primary focus when I was working for companies was figuring out, “How do I make my boss happy?” The biggest issue that I think about when I am working for myself is, “How do I make my customers happy?” I guess they’re my bosses as well.
And so, if you listen to your boss, i.e. your customer, and you figure out their pain points – and by the way, when you write your aha books, your aha books are focused on their pain points. So, listen to your customers, listen to their pain points, write books on their pain points, solve their problems, and that is absolutely the best thing you could do because, as their pain points change and you’re willing to change, your business will continue to grow with them.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Mitchell Levy: Having a good balance between work life and play life, although, what I might say in a different way, if you could figure out how you do things you love doing. So, if work equals play, you play all the time, or if work equals fun, you never work at all. And so, personal habit, find stuff you really like doing.
And for stuff that you don’t like doing, figure out how you create good, compelling processes. So, I use Google Docs. Everything we do is systematized in Google Docs. They have a nice structure. It’s ISO 9003. And what happens is I hire people, typically using Upwork. I hire people via Upwork to solve the stuff that I don’t like doing so I can spend time doing the stuff that I like doing. And so, essentially, John, I play all the time.
John Lee Dumas: Well, like Upwork, recommend one Internet resource.
Mitchell Levy: I gotta say AHAthat.com. So, there are 40,000 pieces of content, free to use, free to share, so how could you not use it?
John Lee Dumas: Boom! And recommend one book, Mitchell.
Mitchell Levy: If you are an entrepreneur and you don’t truly understand what does it mean to sell you or sell your product or sell your service, there’s an old classic called Selling the Wheel by Jeffrey Cox. That is a phenomenal book in terms of understanding what salespeople are and what type of salespeople are appropriate for what situation you’re in. So, Selling the Wheel is a great book.
John Lee Dumas: Mitchell, I wanna end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Mitchell Levy: We live in a world to be known, liked, and trust, you gotta share content. Regardless of where you are in your business, you need to share, whether it’s on social media or other places, whether or not you create your own platform or not, and 80 percent of the content you share should come from other people.
And so, John, thanks for interviewing me because I am now gonna start sharing your programs in my messages because your content rocks. And that’s what you need to do is find people whose content you like and share it. And by the way, I do this all the time because we have 40,000 quotes in AHAthat we share. And so, feel free to go there. Use that, free to use, free to share, and, John, you’re gonna be incorporated in that type of work.
John Lee Dumas: Mitchell, thank you. You definitely have that mindset of abundance, brother. I appreciate it. And, Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with ML and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Type “Mitchell” in the search bar. His Show Notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz – timestamps, links galore.
And, Mitchell, thank you, brother, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Mitchell Levy: May the aha’s be with you.
John Lee Dumas: Hey, Fire Nation, hope you enjoyed our chat with Mitchell today, and if you want to accomplish one goal in 100 days, just visit TheFreedomJournal.com and use promo code PODCAST for a nice little thank-you gift from me, and I will catch you there, or I will catch you on the flipside.
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