Todd VanDuzer is the co-founder and CEO of Student-Tutor and Desert Canvas, a blogger / writer for popular site like Huffington Post, motivational speaker for high schools and companies, avid rock climber who has climbed 2000+ foot cliffs, world traveler who has gone to 34+ countries, and more.
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- Desert Canvas – Todd’s latest venture
- ToddVanDuzer.com – Best way to connect with Todd
- TheFreedomJournal.com– Tool recommended by JLD
- Get It Done – Todd’s Best Business Book
- Asana – Todd’s Small Business Resource
3 Key Points:
- The more people you help, the more doors that will open.
- The sooner you understand the value of outsourcing the better—focus on what you kick butt at.
- Happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:54] – John introduces Todd to the show
- [01:01] – Todd’s background
- [02:36] – BE OPEN
- [03:09] – How Todd generates revenue
- [04:19] – Worst Entrepreneur Moment – only 8 months ago! Tearing out a floor and laying the new floor down WRONG.
- [07:15] – Bottom line, know what your strengths are and focus on them—hand the other things off to professionals
- [07:59] – Learning the importance of outsourcing is a marquee entrepreneurial moment
- [08:36] – Don’t go from crappy to OK… nobody wants OK. Focus on what you’re good at and become GREAT
- [09:15] – Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- [09:42] – Writing for Huffington Post—greatest entrepreneurial moment
- [12:26] – Don’t always go into things looking to benefit—go in things looking to help
- [13:52] – “Try not to become a person of success, become a person of value.”
- [14:06] – Biggest Weakness?—Todd is an 80% man
- [15:05] – Biggest Strength? – Leading and getting people motivated
- [15:23] – Fired Up About? – Desert Canvas
- [18:35] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?—Nothing
- What is the best advice you have ever received?—Many people confuse happiness and pleasure—happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal
- What is a personal habit that contributes to your success?—Having a consistent morning routine
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation— Asana
- One book to have on your bookshelf?— Get It Done
Todd VanDuzer: Absolutely! Let's do this.
Interviewer: Todd is the co-founder and CEO of Student-Tutor and Desert Canvas. He writes for popular sites like Huffington Post, is a motivational speaker for high schools and companies, and is an avid rock climber and world traveler. Todd, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse in your personal life.
Todd VanDuzer: Absolutely. So, five years ago I set a goal for myself and that goal was to develop enough passive income where I could leave and travel around the world in a van and explore life, rock climb, surf, and see what life has to offer. I'm about three and a half months away from that goal and that goal that I wrote down five years ago was kind of out there at the time. I didn't know if I could make it and I'm just about to hit it.
Interviewer: Wow! Are you going to document that journey in any way?
Todd VanDuzer: I am. So the journey kind of took a little turn. About two years ago I went to a park and set up a slackline between two trees and invited a couple of friends to join me because I wanted to learn how to slackline. Slackline is basically walking on this one-inch line webbing and it is just a balance technique, kind of meditative and you eventually do it to highline where you are setting it above thousand foot cliffs and walking across it.
Todd VanDuzer: That grew to become this movement where over 100 people are meeting in the park on a weekly basis. We just started developing a team and then we started a Music and Arts Festival. So now I guess my trip kind of shifted from me just going and traveling to me now going to different cities and starting festivals.
Interviewer: I think what is really important about this, Fire Nation, is that you are open to evolving. You don't really know what's going to hit, what's going to miss. Just be open. You know, Todd was open. He set up that slackline and if there were just two people doing it, you know, six months later he probably would've not changed his focus that much. But guess what – it grew to over 100 people. He hit on something. It resonated with him, he shifted, he pivoted, and he's making it happen. Now, Todd, you are getting pretty close to that big goal that's going to let you have this incredible experience. To do that, you obviously generated revenue and that's what it takes to have a viable business so, Fire Nation, we're entrepreneurs. We're small business owners. We're looking to create viable businesses too so what do you specifically do to generate revenue in your business?
Todd VanDuzer: So I have a couple different businesses that generate revenue. My main one is the tutoring company, Student-Tutor, and basically we offer in-person and online tutoring to families across the U.S. We've hit 15 different states. Basically, we kind of help skyrocket grades and test scores to maximize chances to get into college as well as universities. Other revenue stream is houses. So my partner and I, when the market was pretty low here in Phoenix, purchased a couple of homes and we renovated them to be like college pads with kind of like a bar in it and a fire pit.
Then we rent them out to college students and we have pretty positive cash flow there, so that helps us I guess like additional passive income source to have as well.
Interviewer: It's not a college pad without a fire pit. Am I right, Todd?
Todd VanDuzer: Yeah, and the bar. You have to have a bar.
Interviewer: Let's focus on the fire pit for purposes of this interview. So, Todd, we are going to start talking about your journey as an entrepreneur, which has had the ups and which has had the downs. The story that I want you to tell us now, Fire Nation is waiting to hear your worst entrepreneurial moment. So, Todd, tell us the story. Take us to that moment in time. Break it down.
Todd VanDuzer: Absolutely. So my worst entrepreneurial moment was back not even too long ago – probably about eight months ago or so. We had just got another home and we were renovating it and we went a little over budget on that home. We had promised the upcoming tenants who were moving into another house that we had that we were going to renovate as well, but we had no money left over. So I was like you know what – don't worry. I can figure it out. I'll do it myself. I was like I can lay the floor down. I can do that. It can't be that hard. I can watch some YouTube videos.
Interviewer: I've got some HGTV.
Todd VanDuzer: Exactly. I was just like I'll figure it out, you know. Don't worry. I'll make it happen. So I started watching some videos, I go pick up some wood in order to lie down the vinyl floor and stuff. I get to the house and start tearing up the carpet. I was like there's some prickly things under there. I need to yank those out. I call a friend and I was like hey, man, you want to help me out? I'll pay you like $10.00 to $15.00 an hour. You can just help me out here for a couple of days. Like yeah, absolutely, so we start tearing out the floor, start laying it down, and to make a long story short, we do this for a couple of days. The tenants are moving in. I text her and just say hey, you know, I'm running a little bit late on this house.
It should be done within the next day and a half. Your room is not completely done yet but it will be tomorrow. Is that fine? She was like yeah, no problem. She understood the circumstance and everything and how we were still trying to get this done for her. Well, anyway she comes in – her dad walks in and he kind of looks at the floor and he looks up at me and he says hey, so did you put like quarter-inch on the side, you know, like the spacing? At first I was like yeah, yeah, absolutely. Then I was like – I waited a couple minutes and I was like what do you mean quarter-inch?
Interviewer: Define quarter-inch.
Todd VanDuzer: What do you mean by that? Then he was also like you know it's got to be spaced 4-3-2-1. I was like what do you mean by that? Basically, I had laid the entire floor down wrong. I guess I didn't quite follow the directions or something. I'm just not good at laying floor, I guess. I don't really know. I didn't really do a lot of the steps right so I had to tear out the entire floor and I had to re-floor the entire thing plus I had to hire him. He was a contractor and that's why he kind of knew what to do. So it ended up costing me just about the amount of money if I would have hired someone and I had to do it twice.
It was hilarious to put it lightly. Honestly, it was horrible! For three weekends I had no life where basically I was just laying floor and what I really learned from it was something extremely valuable. I think it's something that's been knocking on my head for so long. I've gotten to this point in my life where I've really figured out what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are. I have things where I've realized those things about myself and I was still trying to do new things and trying to figure things out when I had passed that point. So that really kind of brought light to me. It was like you know what, Todd? You need to start handing these things off to other people that are professionals that know what they're doing. That's what their expertise is in. Stop trying to get better at these things that you're not strongest in. For instance, just being a handyman and doing little things like that is just not my strength. Yeah, but funny experience.
Interviewer: So, Fire Nation, I actually am not going to call this a worst entrepreneurial moment. I'm going to call this a necessary entrepreneurial moment. You just heard Todd explain why this is necessary. Yeah, it sucked. You had to spend three weekends, no life, learning what it meant to lay down a floor incorrectly. I mean, that is no fun and that's never going to be cool. But guess what – the bigger lesson here is that he learned that hey, I know what I'm good at. I'm going to focus my time, my energy, my bandwidth on amplifying things that I'm good at.
Then I'm going to find the things that I'm NOT good at and hire people to do that or just not spend my time and my energy doing those things because you don't want to go, Fire Nation, from crappy at something to okay. Nobody wants okay. Nobody wants okay. So you find somebody who is good at what you're crappy at and you hire them or you just again don't do that crappy thing because nobody wants that. You spend your very valuable, energy, time, and bandwidth on things that you are good at so that hopefully you can become great. You can amplify your future or potentially present greatness.
So great lesson learned, Todd. Again, I'm shifting that from worst to necessary entrepreneurial moment for you. Let's move into another story. This was a huge aha moment for you what you just went through, Todd. That was an aha moment like no other but what I'm going to do now is challenge you to find an aha moment in your journey as an entrepreneur and there have been a lot but choose one for Fire Nation that you think is really going to resonate with our listeners. It can't be the one that you just shared. It has got to be a new one. One of your great aha moments. Take us to that moment and tell us that story.
Todd VanDuzer: I was writing for Huffington Post and I was going to be going to this concert and I decided to contact the venue and tell them hey, I can write a story for you guys, help you guys out, give you guys some publicity here. I would love to go to the festival if you can just get me a ticket and they said absolutely, we can do that for you. So I went over to the event and I was at the event. I had a really good time at the concert. It was cool. Afterwards, I started to write the story and started looking online and I'm trying to figure out who the founder was just to put a really good story out because I really wanted to help them because I thought what they were doing was really cool. They were bringing the community together in Phoenix. Their company was called Relentless Beats. They do electronic music. They're the biggest event provider currently in Phoenix.
I realized that [inaudible] [00:09:27] did not have story about himself out there as far as what he did in his life and everything like that. So I took that as an opportunity to try to help him. I wanted to write a story on him and just to let the world know about exactly what was going on in his life and how he got to where he was today just because there was nothing out there. So I contacted the CEO of Relentless Beats and I said hey, I'd love to write a little story on you and I see there's nothing out there. Would you like to meet up? He was like absolutely.
So I ended up meeting with him and we talked to him for about an hour and a half or so. We got a ton of information and started up the story and still not completed yet because I'm still waiting on a couple of details from him. But we created this really awesome relationship. It happened that there were having a festival two months later called Decadence. It was the largest EDM Music Festival that Arizona had ever had. Two day, multi-day over New Year's and us, our festival, Desert Canvas, which was just kind of starting. It hadn't really started yet.
This is a very new venture that I kind of just stumbled upon. They needed some type of art insulation. We decided you know what – we can build something for you. So we were like let's build this. How about we build this massive R&B? Stands for Relentless Beads Festival coming up in two weeks. So we built this huge R&B. They gave us some money to fund it. It also helped just getting exposure for us in our upcoming event, which helped dramatically. We were at this festival called Decadence, which existed over New Year's. We built this huge R&B, which stood for Rebirth, which was the name for our festival two weeks later.
What we did was we had people write stories on it – good and bad – from 2015 and then two weeks later they came to our event, which was about new beginnings, new friends, and a fresh start to 2016 and paint over it to symbolize the new beginning.
Then paint over this huge R&B. What I really learned – I guess the aha moment from this was going into it I was really not looking for anything from it. I was just looking to help. I had gotten to help as many people as possible. If I saw there was a skill I was good at as far as writing went, I was like I'm going to go to this concert. I might as well write a story on it. I can help them out and doing it at this specific event and then looking into it further and realizing that hey, it would be really advantageous if they had a story about the CEO and how he got started and what happened and more people knew about it.
I went into writing that and suddenly it just started opening up more and more doors. Because I was helping naturally, I guess they wanted to help me back and it really kind of helped start our events and start our festival, which I never thought would ever exist. I never thought I'd be running a music and arts festival. I mean, have this team of supporters and be throwing thousand person events or so within just three or four months. But because of that and because of just this genuine desire to constantly – with the skills I have and look out for this, I guess that was the real moment I realized that helping people actually pays dividends.
Before I just did it out of the kindness of my heart and I just thought it was the right thing to do but then I started realizing that the more people you help the more you succeed.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, when you approach a situation as a person who is looking to provide value first, you win always. You always win. Just remember that. There's a great quote that I have absolutely abided by from Day 1 of EOFire from Albert Einstein – Try not to become a person of success but rather a person of value. When you become a person of value, things unfold before you and you win. Period. Huge takeaway. Love that aha moment, Todd. Now what would you consider your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Todd VanDuzer: I'm the 80 percent man. I tell everyone I work with that. I have all these great ideas but I only carry them through 80 percent. You know, I try SO hard not to. I mean, I do the whole writing down things, keep focused, and the quarterly goals that I've learned from tracks and all these different books but somehow I only always get things done 80 percent, maybe 90 percent sometimes. So I've realized that for a while and what I do as soon as I start, I make sure that the person I'm working with knows that. He's the 100 percent man and he can carry it out. So, yeah, I'd say that's my biggest weakness is not completing tasks fully and not following through but to complement that I make sure I also have someone on the team that WILL make sure they follow through with the 80 percent of the work that I've completed.
Interviewer: Todd, I have your solution for you. Visit thefreedomjournal.com. Now what would you consider your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?
Todd VanDuzer: Leading. I really think – I don't know, I think that's something I'm good at, getting people motivated. Motivating, speaking in front of people, getting them to get pumped up about something, and gathering like-minded goals to follow the common goal.
Interviewer: What's the one thing that has you most fired up today?
Todd VanDuzer: Desert Canvas. Desert Canvas as far as the music and arts festival. I never thought in a million years I would ever do this. For the longest time I used to tell friends I love four things in this world. I love business, I love rock climbing, and I love girls and for some reason I didn't really realize ever that I could make a little bit of money off of it and help people. Just because I found to do music festivals and festivals in general to be transformational experiences.
I take people from not knowing what they want to do in life to unsure to not that passionate to going to this transformational experience, this conscious space that really focuses in helping individuals and going to workshops, expanding individual's minds, and taking them to having a ton of friends in an amazing community and very passionate, very focused on what they want to do in their life. We've seen these stories come out time and time again through this festival and through this weekly meet-up that we crated. So I would say that's definitely what gets me fired up right now.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, speaking of passion, we have some of that waiting for you in the Lightning Rounds but we're going to take a quick minute to thank our sponsors. Todd, are you prepared for the Lightning Rounds?
Todd VanDuzer: I am. Let's do this.
Interviewer: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Todd VanDuzer: I would say nothing honestly. I've never been nothing but an entrepreneur. I've never had a real job. My last job was when I was 18 years old and I was a valet driver and I remember quitting that job when I was going to college. I told my parents and friends that this is my last job I ever have, guys. I think everyone thought I was insane. I was like no, you don't understand. This is really my last job. Like, I'm done. I'm done working. I'm going to work for myself the rest of my life. So ever since I was little. I did little things like selling lemonade on the street. I had a string machine when I was in middle school.
I had a lawn business when I was in fourth grade. I started the tutoring company when I was in high school. So I would say nothing. I've never been anything else.
Interviewer: What is the best advice you've ever received?
Todd VanDuzer: So I had a speaker come in to our room when I was in college. I think it was my sophomore year or my junior year. It was Management 301 class. His name was Greg Hague. He told me something that took me probably a couple years to understand but he told me and it stuck with me. He said many people mix up happiness with pleasure. Happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal. When I really fully understood that, a lot of things made sense because I used to pursue pleasure as well.
I used to want to have enough money to not have to work anymore and to just kind of relax and have this nice house and car or whatever and just travel. I realized that's not where happiness is. Happiness is when you are pursuing something that is worthwhile to you. So that right there is something I now live by. I'm constantly trying to pursue a goal that's bigger than me that's benefitting others.
Interviewer: What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Todd VanDuzer: Personal habit is actually someone that came on your show – Hal.
Interviewer: Hal [inaudible] [00:17:27].
Todd VanDuzer: Yeah, yeah. I actually met him. I was at this conference Archangels Academy like three weeks ago and so this is a pretty new habit but I'm going to say it because I think it's a life changer. It just started a couple weeks ago and it's really transformed. It's having a morning routine. Have a consistent morning routine at least five days a week where I wake up in the morning, go for a run, listen to a book on tape so I can get my audio reading in, meditate. After I meditate, I then listen to affirmations of things that I'm trying to learn how to focus on listening to others and listen to them fully.
Then afterwards, getting home and doing a little bit of writing in the booklet to get my day going, eating a really healthy breakfast, taking a nice shower, doing some stretching, and doing that on a daily basis. In doing so, I'm just a lot more clear, a lot more focused, lot more calm, lot less stressed, and a lot more happy.
Interviewer: Share an internet resource like Evernotes with Fire Nation.
Todd VanDuzer: Asana, Asana. If you're not using Asana, you've got to get on it. Coupling that with the book Get It Done by David Allen. It's about stress-free productivity. You'll do wonders.
Interviewer: Well, Fire Nation, I know you love audio so I teamed up with Audible and if you haven't already you can get an amazing audiobook for free at EOFirebook.com and the Get It Done audible book is incredible. Now, Todd, I want to end it today on fire with you sharing a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we'll say goodbye.
Todd VanDuzer: The best way you can connect with me is taking a look at my website toddvanduzer.com. I've got some contact information on there. You can also subscribe to my blog. I just write about inspirational stories really designed to inspire you and hopefully get you to follow your passions, face your fears, and go after your dreams.
Interviewer: And that parting piece of guidance?
Todd VanDuzer: Parting piece of guidance? I'm just going to bring you back to that quote that I learned earlier and that is many people mix up happiness with pleasure. Happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal. Figure out your worthwhile goal and pursue it with passion.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you've been hanging out with TVD and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Todd in the search bar. His Show Notes page will pop up with everything that we've been talking about today. Of course, you can go directly to ToddVanDuzer (that's D-U-Z-E-R).com and check him out over there – a lot of great stuff. Todd, I want to thank you, brother, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that we salute you and we'll catch you on the flip side.
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