Episode 219

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There was a time when you spent most of your time learning your craft. Whether it was account service or art direction or biz dev – you had to develop the skills to do your job well. There’s no doubt that our world demands on-going education so we can continue to serve our clients. But at this point in your career, you have the luxury of focusing on something a bit deeper — developing yourself as a leader, professional, and human being. That’s why I love John Jantsch’s new book The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur so much. It invites us to do just that.

John has always been about teaching small businesses how to do marketing. His previous five books were all how to guides for everything from selling, using referrals to grow your business, and SEO. But this latest book offers no step by step instructions. In fact, it’s sort of the opposite. It’s a book about you discovering answers to bigger questions that can’t come with an instruction manual.

Each of the 366 chapters is comprised of a quote from a literary great, a reflection by John on the day’s topic (anything from limited beliefs to seizing risk) and then a thought-provoking question. You can consume the book in one big gulp or you can sip it throughout the year.

In this episode of Build A Better Agency, John and I chat about why he made the dramatic shift in writing purpose and style, how he got the book done and how he recommends readers squeeze the full value from the book.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • About John’s new book and why he chose to write a “why to” rather than another how to
  • How to invest in yourself and how that growth can serve your agency
  • The book writing process for “The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur”
  • How to use John’s book to become a stronger, more centered agency leader

The Golden Nugget:

“I happen to think entrepreneurship is one of the greatest self-development programs ever created.” @ducttape Click To Tweet “We have to follow our own path, but we have much to gain by understanding each other better.” @ducttape Click To Tweet “There is a universal shift taking place, and people are starting to realize that mindset is just as important as tactics.” @ducttape Click To Tweet “As entrepreneurs, we are trying to change something that’s wrong, create something that doesn’t exist, or solve a problem; a lot of times we have to upset the apple cart.” @ducttape Click To Tweet “Nature provides a truly amazing example of how we should live.” @ducttape Click To Tweet

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Ways to Contact John Jantsch:

Announcer:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute Community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ, is packed with insights on how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for joining us again this week. If this is your first go around, welcome. For those of you that are regular listeners, always great to have you with us.

As the year wraps up and we start thinking about 2020, one of the things that I think about a lot is the fact that we and you have chosen a challenging path. I think it is without exception, I don’t care what the industry is, but certainly in our world, I think it’s a challenge to be a business owner today, to be an entrepreneur. I think it comes with incredible pressures and responsibilities that oftentimes, as I have talked about in other solo casts, we can get so caught up in the difficulty of it. In the challenges of it, in the just the day to day grind of it, that sometimes we don’t stop and step back and not only reflect on what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve been and where we’re headed, but even more so we just don’t take very good care of ourselves in terms of our own professional development, our personal development.

That’s what this episode is all about. This episode is in some ways a celebration, an opportunity for you to reflect on all of the good things that come from being an entrepreneur. And maybe to make a commitment to yourself to invest in yourself in this coming year in terms of supporting yourself in a way that perhaps you hadn’t considered.

Before I tell you a little bit about our guest and get a little more specific about the topic today, just a couple quick reminders. Number one: The early bird pricing for the Build a Better Agency Summit, that’s the conference that we hosting, built just for you, for small to midsize agencies. It’s September… No, I lied. It is May 19th and 20th of 2020 in Chicago, in the US. We would love to have you. We have folks coming from all over the world. If possible, a great way to spend some money before the end of the year and a great way to get in on that early bird pricing. So grab a ticket before December 31, 2019 if you’re listening to this in real time.

Another reminder is that we are every month giving away a free workshop. You can either come to one of our live workshops or you can have access to one of our on demand workshops. All you have to do to be eligible to win one of those prizes which retails for about $2,000, is leave us a rating or review, or both, on whatever channel or platform that you use to download the podcast. For many of you it’s going to be Apple Podcast or Google or Stitcher. But just leave us a review, take a screenshot and send it to me. As I’ve told you many times, oftentimes, your user name lovesbunnies102, is not indicative of who you are as a person, it doesn’t match your real name. So I just need a screenshot so that I know it’s you. Then we’ll throw you in the drawing and you will stay in that drawing until sooner or later hopefully, you are the big winner. That would be awesome if you would do that.

Let’s talk a little bit about the episode today. My guest today is a repeat visitor to Build a Better Agency podcast. Many of you are very familiar with his work. John Jantsch has been the head of Duct Tape Marketing for over 25 years. John started out building out a methodology for helping small businesses create a marketing presence and get results from that marketing presence, which he called Duct Tape Marketing. He was one of the very first guys out there grabbing social media opportunities, blogging when blogging was brand new. Just creating all kinds of great content. All of it was very how to, how do you market your business.

As many of you know, he also serves a lot of consultants, marketing consultants and small agencies and teaches them his patented marketing methodology, which they can then use for their clients. John’s always been about teaching us how to do things. He’s a multiple book author. Up until his most recent book, which is what we’re going to talk about today, all of his books have very much been how to books. Very pragmatic, practical, hands on, super helpful. With this book, he took a different path. He took a path that I want to ask him a little bit more about, but his book is much more of a learning about yourself, why to, than a how to. As I was reading it and going through it in prep for the interview, I couldn’t help but think how useful it would be. It’s written as a daily digest. Think of it almost like a daily devotional. Each date, each day, has a different thought or suggestion and then a really thought provoking question.

What a great way for you to invest in yourself in 2020, is to take two or three minutes and read the day’s passage and then ponder the question. I also think it’s an opportunity for you to share this with your leadership team or your entire team because I think we can all use a little self-reflection as we go through our busy day. I don’t want to belabor the point, I would rather spend the time chatting with John, so let’s get right to it.

John, welcome back to the podcast.

John Jantsch:

Hey, thanks for having me, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

The reason that I invited you back is because you have a brand new book out. Everybody knows you as the Duct Tape Marketer and that you serve both direct clients, but that you also help agencies and solopreneurs build out the front end of their work with clients in terms of having a whole system around marketing. That’s I think, what you’re known for, but this book is quite a departure for you. What took you on this new journey?

John Jantsch:

Well, I’ve actually owned my own business in one shape or another for almost 30 years now and I really was to the point where I wanted to write something that was a bit of a reflection of that journey. I happen to think that being an entrepreneur is probably one of the greatest self-development programs ever created. Because we’re constantly, or we should be, constantly working on ourselves probably as much as working on our businesses. This is a book, as you noted, I mean, it’s not a how to book. It’s actually my sixth book, my other five books have been squarely about how to do some aspect of growing a business or marketing a business. I think we all know how to do everything now, quite frankly.

Drew McLellan:

Thank God to YouTube, [crosstalk 00:07:59].

John Jantsch:

Exactly. I wanted to write something that was more focused on the mindset of why to. So this is a book that is a tool, if you will. It’s not a book you take on vacation and read from cover to cover. Every day has a new entry, so it’s a daily journal, the point of which is to give you something to reflect on. Take two minutes to read. I mean, we all have that stack of books that we can’t get to. This is a two minute, daily investment in getting your mind right maybe or hopefully. I end each day with a question also, that I hope that you carry into the day that shows up. It’s really just the idea that I think our journey, our purpose in life is to continually grow. I think if we don’t work on that, if we don’t make time for that, then eventually we’ll stagnate.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, as I was flipping through it, it feels almost like an homage to entrepreneurship. A celebration that it’s not easy, that there are challenges every day and that it takes a fortitude and an attitude. Which I think each of your daily, I know it’s not religious, but devotionals is to lift the spirit of the entrepreneur.

John Jantsch:

Yeah, I’m glad you picked up on that, used that word, because I’ve been referring to it as a love letter to entrepreneurs. I love what I do, I’ve worked with thousands of entrepreneurs now. I think that what we get to do as entrepreneurs is really one of the greatest opportunities. The most freeing, the most joyful thing. But if you don’t pay attention, it can suck the life out of you. That’s really what this book is about. I mean, there’s no telling you how to do anything. I mean, that’s the ironic thing about a book telling people to be self-reliant. I mean, that’s on you. But it is, hopefully, a book to give you a kick in the pants a little bit, a you got this, a pat on the back. And as you said, a celebration of what we get to do and hopefully be grateful for what we get to do.

Drew McLellan:

I realize we have not told the listeners the actual name of the book. The exact name of the book, although you can just go to Amazon or any bookstore and ask for John’s books, but it’s The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business. If you’re looking for it, that’s the exact title you would look for.

When you were mapping this out, when you decided that you wanted to do this, because this again, as I said, is a departure for you, I’m guessing the book writing process was pretty different.

John Jantsch:

It was substantially different and much harder than my other books. Frankly, my other books, I literally had been practicing [inaudible 00:11:00] did. You might try it, it might work for you, 10,000 words or so. Turns out it’s much harder to write short passages as it is to write much longer ones. This book also had a huge component of research. I really wanted to anchor the book in some historical writing, historical wisdom. So I mined a vein of literature from the mid-19th century and we can talk about why or what that means. But every entry starts with something from Thoreau or Emerson or Margaret Fuller, Louisa May Alcott because I happen to believe, you’ll find Pinterest boards that support this, that Emerson and Thoreau and many of the people that wrote in that period are some of the first, but also some of the greatest entrepreneurial writing.

Even though they weren’t writing to entrepreneurs, they were writing to the human condition of we have to think for ourselves. We’re all endowed with a soul that makes us unique, that we have to follow our path. To do anything else is to sin against nature. And I think that’s some of the greatest advice for many entrepreneurs.

Drew McLellan:

Did you stumble upon that period and go, “Oh, these guys are my guys,” or did you know that’s where you wanted to start?

John Jantsch:

Well, I have long been a follower of Emerson. I started my business in the ’90s and like all great marketers, I had T-shirts made.

Drew McLellan:

Of course.

John Jantsch:

I had an Emerson quote on the back of that, “There is no object so foul, that intense like cannot make beautiful.” I think that’s always been with me. I will say that when I decided I wanted to anchor this in some writing that I was familiar with, it also gave me the opportunity to unearth and research that entire period. What I found is when you think about what was going on in America around 1850, we were on the cusp of the Civil War. Women were marching in the streets to get the right to vote, we were trying to abolish slavery. So all of a sudden, you had for the first time, this countercultural writing, saying we need to make these social changes. We don’t have to listen to the preacher or our parents, or the government, we need to think for ourselves. It was overt in people like Thoreau and Emerson.

But what I discovered was, even the novels and the fiction that we were all asked to read in high school and college; Little Women, Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, the protagonist in those books, for the first time you saw a protagonist who were like, “Hey, this is maybe going to cost me, but I have to follow my heart.” Then I went into letters and journals and really just dug into that entire period. It was just clear to me that those folks were writing to us today. That’s why I think that a great deal of that literature has stood the test of time.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think you’re right. I think that entrepreneurs are the rebels, right? They’re carving their own path. I can see how that spirit in literature would align with your intention to inspire and encourage entrepreneurs.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. I mean, you think about an entrepreneur. I mean, we’re trying to change something that’s wrong, we’re trying to create something that doesn’t exist today, we’re trying to solve a problem. So yeah, a lot of times we have to turn over the apple cart.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. As you were writing the book, for you is there a progression through thematically, or is each piece standalone and you could read them in backwards order and it wouldn’t matter?

John Jantsch:

I think it wouldn’t matter would be the simple statement to that last question. But I wrote a blog post about four years ago and this was probably, whether I knew it or not at the time, probably the start of this book. I called it The Changing Seasons of the Entrepreneur. Reflecting on my own journey, I feel like there are multiple, never ending season that come along. When I’ve started something new, when I’ve tried to change direction a little bit. I mean, there’s this do I trust my idea season enough? Then there’s this okay, let’s go out and discover if anybody wants this thing season. Then there’s the okay, it didn’t work exactly like I thought it was going to. How do I pivot or how do I get back up again or start over again? Then finally, you get comfortable with this idea that hey, this is working and here’s the impact that I want it to have on the world.

Again, as I said, that’s not just one long career arc. To me, that’s almost every time you make a significant change in your business or in your life. Because I wanted to write a daily, annual calendar, the metaphor for the seasons were there for the taking. So I structured the book loosely around those four seasons and then every month has its own theme as well. On top of creating a narrative arc for the book, it also gave me an organizational structure for all of this writing and research. Because I started just reading all these books, highlighting and going, “Yeah, I want to put this in the book.” Then I just quickly realized that was just going to be chaos. So once I created the spreadsheet of 12 monthly themes, it allowed me to go out and organize and find writing that fit the theme.

Drew McLellan:

As I’ve read through the book, I’ve flipped through it and now I’m going back and following it the way you built it to be. But obviously, some of them are lessons we’ve already learned. Some of them are lessons where it’s like, “Okay. Well, I’ve stubbed my toe on that several times. Maybe this time I should take it to heart.” Was there one of the lessons that for you personally was the Achilles heel lesson?

John Jantsch:

Oh, boy. I’m not sure I’m going to answer this the way you asked it. But to me, the thing that I learned the most from actually writing this book, because as anybody who’s written a book knows, we get as much out of writing it or much more as anybody is going to get out of reading it. For me, it made me take a sense of the impact that actually I have had, that I want to have. Because a lot of times as entrepreneurs, I think we’re always looking at it’s not what I think it could be. It’s not there yet. Look at that person over there that’s doing so much more than me. I think that for me, it really gave me an opportunity to look around and go, “Wow! I have come a long way.”

There are a lot of people that write to me occasionally and say, “This book changed my life.” I think if we as entrepreneurs, whether it’s one, or 10, or 100 people, aren’t focused on the meaning that we’ve had and the impact that we’ve had or that we want to have, I think we’re missing the real opportunity of why we do all this.

Drew McLellan:

You talked earlier about boy, it can knock you to your knees. I think what helps you get back up again is knowing that you actually are having some influence on a single person or a company or whatever it is. But you are changing the trajectory for someone else and you are adding value. So that’s what makes the lousy days worth it.

John Jantsch:

You’ve been doing this a while too. I mean, I think you come to learn over time that a lot of those knock you to your knees moments were ones that you needed to have. That you actually should probably find a way to be grateful for because they probably put you back on or on the right path. It’s hard to say that at the time, but I can look at many, many instances in which things happened that I thought, “Oh, this bad,” but it actually opened a door for something that was much more real.

Drew McLellan:

Maybe you were heading on the wrong path or the wrong course and sometimes you have to get knocked on your rear end to go, “Oh!” I don’t know about you, but I always find that the first couple hints, which are tiny little hints that the universe sends me, I miss. But the boulder in the middle of the street that I have to figure out a way around, that one is hard to avoid.

John Jantsch:

I think the most challenging thing for an entrepreneur is to be comfortable, be complacent. Hey, this isn’t my best work, but they’re paying me for it kind of thing. Sometimes you need that stretch, that challenge to say, “Okay, I am not being true to myself.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. Hey, I think to give the listeners an idea of the way the book is structured and all of that, would you mind, pick a day and read it to us?

John Jantsch:

Yeah. You bet. As you said, every day has a title, a reading from some of the literature I mined, 100 or so many words from me. Then actually, I leave you with a challenge question. That’s the structure. We are recording this on December 2nd, you and I, and so I’ll just read December 2nd.

Title is, There is No Try. “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. I feel as if this tree knows everything I ever think of when I sit here. When I come back to it, I never have to remind