In a world where people are famous for doing nothing, we’re here to discover the seemingly ordinary people who take giant leaps to do something extraordinary.

Moving Forward features individuals from all different backgrounds and walks of life with the goal of inspiring you to discovery the extraordinary in yourself.  Everyone from 6 and 7-figure entrepreneurs to actors, musicians, filmmakers; everyone has a story about how they moved beyond the ordinary and excelled to become extraordinary.  Get ready, it’s time to start moving forward!

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© Ba-Li Solutions, LLC, 2016. All rights reserved.

MF 130 : Suzanne Brown on Moving Forward with Greater Work-Life Balance

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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Suzanne Brown is a former ad executive, TEDx speaker, and creator of the Mompowerment blog. Today, Suzanne will share some great tips on achieving greater work-life balance.

Successes at a glance:

  • Former ad and marketing executive.
  • TEDx speaker on the subject of empowering moms with more part-time opportunities, check it out below:

Setback failure or time when things fell apart:

  • Suzanne was on the fast track with her career. She was putting 60+ hours a week working in advertising and expanding out to other areas to become an integrated communications specialist. However, Suzanne always had a bigger goal in mind. To her, moving up as quickly as possible wasn’t simply an end in itself. Rather, it was the means to a bigger goal: to achieve greater work-life balance. The problem? The greater work-life balance wasn’t waiting for her. As Suzanne recalls, there was a time when she was at the height of her advertising career. She had just been recruited by a large prominent agency in New York and on the surface, everything looked great. But as Suzanne reveals, it was “pure misery.” Suzanne was put on several big projects with international clients, including a particularly difficult one from Brussels. Due to the time difference, Suzanne’s inbox would start her day at 8 am with as she puts it, “scathing emails,” and without any reprieve, Monday thru Friday. Things got so bad that at one point, Suzanne looked in the mirror and said to herself “this isn’t working for me.”

 The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • In speaking with Suzanne, you get a great sense of who she is right from the start. She begins her story with a lifelong mission statement: to make her journey, her own. And that journey, Moving Forward listeners, has been a long and windy one; full of interesting detours and turns along the way. Going back to her college years, Suzanne studied finance and Spanish. Interestingly, she ended up in advertising since as she puts it, “why not?” Suzanne was in the ad biz in the heart of New York City, working for large agencies on big projects. While Suzanne’s career was on the fast track to success, the demands were the first indicator that this industry was not a haven for work-life balance. While working in that environment, she met some fellow ad execs who were moms but didn’t go home any earlier than anybody else. As Suzanne shares, this field easily demanded 60+ hours a week. At this stage in her life, Suzanne was not yet a mom so she was willing to put in the long hours and make the climb. What’s interesting about this industry is that the career tracks are designed for niching. Suzanne describes that the easiest way to move up in advertising is to stick with it. However, Suzanne didn’t want to follow that route. To her, it didn’t make sense to pick one area when she didn’t know how the others worked. So Suzanne bucked the system by rotating; learning as much as she could about all of the different areas of marketing. Being an integrated communications professional was practically unheard of and many would question why Suzanne would do this instead of just digging deep into advertising. But Suzanne had a long term plan in mind and sticking with advertising wasn’t going to facilitate that. Suzanne also had an innate curiosity to learn as much as she could. It required a lot of hours but she was willing to put in that investment. And what was Suzanne’s plan? To move up quickly and achieve greater work-life balance.
  • Did the plan pay off? Yes and no. While Suzanne moved rapidly in her career trajectory, the goal of greater work-life balance didn’t pan out. As detailed above, Suzanne was in “pure misery.” She had just transitioned into a huge agency, working with their international clientele and she was bearing the brunt from a very unhappy client in Brussels, even though what the client was unhappy about was completely out of Suzanne’s control. So that brings us back to that moment when Suzanne looked in the mirror and decided it was time for a change. Suzanne spent 6 months at the agency, just enough time to finish the project and left. Notably, by the time she left, she had been the third person to quit. That’s saying something!
  • Around this time, Suzanne had been encouraged to get an MBA by a former SVP she had worked with on a prior project. Suzanne moved to another agency, doing something completely different: recruiting. How did Suzanne make the transition? She attributes it to networking, having “raised her hand” a few months back to help work on a presentation. The role ended up opening Suzanne to another world; going to college campuses to recruit for MBA programs. Keep in mind, this was before Suzanne had even started her own MBA program! The point was that Suzanne had networked and made the pivots necessary after leaving a situation she was unhappy in. The only problem was that it wasn’t enough work. So Suzanne went to her manager to ask for greater responsibility.
  • This is where Suzanne’s vision actually paid off. Although working in different sectors didn’t pan out in her vision of greater work-life balance in advertising, it did help open the doors in her new role. Because Suzanne had accumulated so much varied experience as an integrated communications specialist, she was able to roll right into a supervisory position; working on strategy, business management, raising capital, as well as recruiting. Suzanne eventually went back into account management and moved to Chicago.
  • By this time, Suzanne had prepped for the GMAT and was getting ready to matriculate. The problem was she was back in the same position she was before: working too many hours at the risk of burning out. So while Suzanne was able to make some great transitions, she had not yet achieved the work-life balance that her big why encompasses. Suzanne was working from 9 am – 10 pm, every day, including the weekends. The only “break” she got was leaving the office on Friday at 8 pm to have dinner with a friend. Things got so bad, that it affected her health.
  • Before she was even accepted to grad school, Suzanne gave notice. For her, this was the point when she knew “enough was enough.” But the sign also came as she was walking out the door as she got accepted to the grad school of choice, The University of Austin at Texas. A new path had opened up for her just as she was literally leaving the old one behind.
  • As Suzanne finished her MBA, she started a side gig, consulting business. This came about when a friend, a money manager, came to her and asked if she could help out with marketing on some of his projects. Other opportunities also started opening up, including one for a new agency in Austin that had a much better work-life balance via a former manager she had worked with in New York. The best part? Suzanne was doing completely different things than she had done prior and on a bad week, worked at most 45 hours. This is the point where Suzanne describes as making “my path.” During this period, Suzanne had also become a mom and had made arrangements to work part-time. A few years later, Suzanne was having coffee with a fellow mom who was also working part-time and the two were discussing the fact that so many women would ask both of them how to pull off working part-time and manage that work-life balance.
  • This is where Suzanne’s big why comes full circle. Having become a mom and experiencing the flexibility of a part-time schedule, Suzanne decided it was time to do her own thing. In trying to answer the many questions that she and her friend had received on this topic, Suzanne did some research to find a resource she could share. Lo and behold, there was none! That’s when she decided to create the resource which led to the birth of Mompowerment. Since then, Suzanne has given a TEDx talk on the subject of work-life balance and next month, she will be releasing her first book.
    • For this book, Suzanne interviewed over 100 moms; detailing the struggle that many of these women face on a daily basis.
    • Suzanne also discovered her inner “story collector:” through the writing and interview process, many women opened up the intimate and personal details of their lives. In speaking with Suzanne, she comes across as very genuine and personable so it’s no surprise that so many have been willing to be open and candid with her.

Knowledge bursts:

  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired Suzanne to seek greater work-life balance:
    • Suzanne struggled to find that resource which is why she was inspired to create Mompowerment and write the definitive book on the subject.
    • What helped Suzanne with finding greater work-life balance in her own life was to change how she looked at productivity.
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • Batching: combine like activities. For example: when it comes to updating her blog, she will batch all of the blogs she has for the month in one long writing session. Suzanne recommends focusing on one task at a time rather than switching back and forth between writing, answering emails, getting on social media, etc. This will keep you focused and prevent mental fatigue.
    • Pomodoro method: since batching can be an intense workflow, Suzanne adds this productivity practice of working for 25 minutes, then stopping for 5, work for another 25, stop for another 5 and so forth. The 25 minutes is spent on the batched task at hand whereas the 5 minutes is a break to spent social media or a task that is home related. This maximizes your productivity for the main task while building in breaks that allow you to get to the other priorities on your to do list.
  • Suzanne’s one tip for achieving better work-life balance:
    • Identify when you’re most productive, that is your “groove.” For some people it may be early morning, for others, it’s the afternoon. Identify your peak period and use it wisely. You can also use Suzanne’s power productivity practice of batching plus the Pomodoro method to maximize your window.
  • How Suzanne recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • Suzanne tries to incorporate a little self-care and maintenance every day so she doesn’t get to that point. She does a little mental check-in to see where she is every morning. However, when she does “hit her max,” changing scenery is how she reboots and recharges. Suzanne is an avid traveler and makes it a point to go with her family somewhere overseas every year.
    • Even if you can’t go overseas, there are ways you can incorporate Suzanne’s scenery remedy by visiting museums or other landmarks in your neighborhood.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • Traveling back to when she was putting in 60+ hours a week and headed for burnout, Suzanne would tell her past self these simple words: “it’s going to be ok.” Suzanne says this with a confidence and a security that comes from living a life and making pivots, sometimes sharp ones, that have borne out that advice. Moving forward listeners, are you stuck in that 60+ hour a week job and finding yourself burning out? Take Suzanne’s advice, both from her story and her words of wisdom. Make some changes, try new things, pivot if you have to and know that in the end “it’s going to be ok.”

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “Make it happen.”

Connect with Suzanne:

MF 129 : Mark Moran on Creating Better Content Through Your “Life GPS”

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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Mark Moran is a content creator and composer at Breadwin Productions, LLC. He’s also produced, written and directed series for the web. Today, Mark will share how your “life GPS” can help you create better content.

Successes at a glance:

  • Creator, composer at Breadwin Productions, LLC
    • Specializing in reality series for the web
  • Former aerospace engineer
  • Production Assistant, later Unit Production Manager on ‘Star Trek: World Enough and Time

Setback failure or time when things fell apart:

  • As you’ll discover below, Mark has had a really unusual and varied career journey, filled with the kind of twists and turns you might find in a novel. And with his journey, came a big crisis. Mark had a problem with his kidneys that put him in the hospital. The problem was so severe that for a time it looked like he might need a kidney transplant. Things looked pretty dire and this was a moment that could break or help define Mark’s future.

The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • Like many of our guests, Mark has had a varied and winding career. He started out a steam line inspector between high school and college; at a plant where they manufactured nitroglycerin for the military. Afterward, he studied aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech and later became an assistant editor to Engineer’s Forum Magazine, a publication for alumni, where he penned several science fiction serials. Although his path as a content creator wasn’t yet defined, Mark definitely had a talent and drive to create stories. Following college, Mark worked with flight test engineers and test pilots for the Navy. Mark then worked as a subcontractor for Wyle Labs at Grumman; working on the space station, Freedom (later dubbed the “International Space Station”). However, due to budget cuts, Mark was one of 600 people that got laid off.
  • Despite having loved his job, Mark had no choice but to move on. Inspired by his mom who was a nurse, Mark got a masters degree in bio statistics, which is the statistics of healthcare. Mark then took another pivot to work for the US Census Bureau, where he specialized in record linking and data. Interestingly, this ties into a project that Mark is currently working on related to William Shakespeare!
  • So how does this all tie into Mark’s creative side? Clearly, his education in science ties into his love of science fiction but Mark has always had an interest in the arts. As a kid, Mark took guitar lessons after his brother unceremoniously “chickened out.” Mark was inspired by the Beatles to write his own music, composing throughout his college years up to the present. Later, Mark leveraged his statistics background and experience to work at the census bureau; teaching individuals in the entertainment industry about the power of statistics thru science fiction analogies. This caught the attention of writer, producer, Mark Zicree, who invited Mark to be a production assistant on ‘Star Trek: World Enough and Time.’
  • So what was Mark’s big “aha moment?” Getting back to the time when he was in the hospital, Mark had been unconscious for a while. When he finally woke up, he saw was a crucifix on the wall. It was then that Mark thought of Jesus, who had died on the cross and “went thru something far worse” than what he was experiencing. What Mark took away from that moment was that here was someone who applied his suffering to a cause. To Mark, this was a big revelation: that trials and tribulations can be used to affect positive change, as a force for good. After Mark got out of the hospital, he had a better appreciation for life and all of his gifts and talents. Mark took this as a learning opportunity that he could draw upon to inspire his content creation. Following his work on ‘Star Trek: World Enough and Time,‘ Mark founded his own production company, Breadwin Productions, LLC, with the motto “badass edgy.” Mark explains this motto as the “GPS of life,” using tradition to build up and inspire good. Moving Forward listeners, creating content is about inspiration. For Mark, his difficult periods, from surviving a layoff to a health crisis, have all been part of his source for creating content. It drives him and gives him purpose. Moreover, it allows him to better connect with those who are part of his content; their experiences and difficult times. What are ways you can take some of the difficulties in your life to create content that inspires and moves forward?

Knowledge bursts:

  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired Mark to move forward:
    • The works of William Shakespeare: for Mark, Shakespeare embodies the art of bringing up taboo subjects in subtle ways through fiction and the written word. Much like Star Trek, fiction provides a medium to talk about controversial topics while avoiding the ire of censors.
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • LinkedIn: for networking and forging great connections.
  • How Mark recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • As Mark shares, he doesn’t get writer’s block but the opposite, which he colorfully calls “writer’s diarrhea!” To curb this, Mark goes back to the basics by asking himself a simple question: “what is the point of what you’re doing” and why you’re doing it in the first place. Understand the “why” and your “how” becomes a lot easier.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • Mark chooses to go back to a very difficult time in his youth. Mark was molested at a young age and at the time, which contained a lot of confusion and doubt, he felt like an active participant. Looking back, he would tell his younger self that it’s not his fault, that he was not a participant but a victim. He would also advise his younger self that “what you do now will affect your entire life.”

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “Be badass edgy!”

Connect with Mark:

MF 128 : Andrew O’Brien on Why Sharing Your Story is the Ultimate Gift and a Huge Responsibility

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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Andrew O’Brien has been featured in over 70 media outlets and teaches entrepreneurs how to take ownership of their story and use it as a force for change.

Successes at a glance:

  • Army veteran who bravely served in Iraq.
  • Entrepreneur and founder, The Publicity Guy, which helps entrepreneurs and business leaders grow their businesses thru increased media exposure.
    • Update: as of Friday, July 28th, Andrew has stepped down as CEO to devote his life to working with veterans, full-time.
  • Featured in over 70 media outlets.

Andrew’s big why:

  • Andrew doesn’t shy away from sharing his story. By age 23, his story had four words that no one should ever have to experience: prostitution, war, suicide, and murder. Andrew was raised by a mother who was a prostitute in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Needless to say, Andrew’s childhood was traumatic. This led Andrew to join the military to escape his upbringing; serving a year in Iraq as a lead gunner. Following his stint in the military, Andrew came home and nearly took his own life but didn’t go thru with it. That’s when Andrew woke up. He had a newfound appreciation for life, got out of the army but things were not easy. A year after he came home, Andrew’s mother took the life of her husband and then asked Andrew to help frame someone else for the murder. Andrew ended up testifying against her in court and she was sentenced to life in prison. While any of those experiences might have caused someone else to give up on life, Andrew took charge of his destiny; becoming a public speaker. For three years, Andrew traveled all around the world, sharing his story. The media became Andrew’s “stereo” so to speak. As a result, Andrew ended up on over 70 global media outlets and spoke on some of the biggest stages in the world, including The White House and The Pentagon. The coolest part: Andrew had no agenda. He wasn’t selling anything, he wasn’t trying to teach anything. All he did was share his story, the story of Andrew O’Brien. This alone was enough to impact and save the lives of many people around the world, including 200 veterans. As Andrew discovered, his big why is to impact as many people as possible thru the power of story and to help entrepreneurs, veterans and business leaders do the exact same thing.

The “spark” that led Andrew to become a public speaker and share his story:

  • Going thru any kind of trauma can cause one of two reactions: 1) hiding and retreating or 2) sharing your story and finding strength from it. What caused Andrew to choose the later after experiencing not one, but many traumas in his life? As Andrew explains, he learned to “stop being so selfish” with his story. For Andrew, sharing his story isn’t simply about him. It’s the ultimate gift and a huge responsibility. At first, Andrew was embarrassed by his life. He felt ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know what he went thru. This all changed in February 2013, when Andrew turned on the news and saw a report about 22 veterans taking their own lives. For the first time in his life, Andrew felt like he wasn’t alone; he wasn’t the only person in the world who had experienced or felt the things he felt. Andrew also had a moment of clarity. He could change that number. He could make a difference, not just for business or publicity sake but a difference that could save lives. That’s when Andrew decided to share his story with the world. In doing so, he could connect with fellow men and women who had also served and let them know that they were not alone.

The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • Andrew’s big “aha moment” came while he was touring and sharing his story for three years. Andrew impacted many lives, including veterans who like himself, had experienced the trauma of war and the difficult transition of coming home. Andrew realized that story is a powerful mechanism for change and helping others. Moreover, Andrew discovered that the most powerful way to scale the impact of story was thru media exposure.
  • Growing up, Andrew never imagined this would lead to a business or calling. In his youth, Andrew was the “quiet kid in the corner,” a self-described “observer.” Flash forward to 2015. Andrew is completing his third year as a public speaker, sharing his story on stage and to media outlets. As the government had been cutting back on mental health services, this directly impacted Andrew’s ability to make a living as a touring public speaker. Andrew was at a crossroads. He had to decide whether he was meant to go work for someone else or take what he had started as a storyteller and grow it into something more. After finding his passion; impacting the lives of so many people, the choice was obvious: there was no way Andrew could settle for a 9-5, M-F life, working for someone else. Andrew started finding his way as an entrepreneur, beginning with small companies, doing everything from auto detailing to other local services. The problem was, “the passion wasn’t there.” Andrew, then decided to take time and “reverse engineer” the past three years as a public speaker and storyteller. The one thing that kept coming back to him was the power of story and media. Another common factor was the fellow entrepreneurs Andrew met during his three-year speaking tour. They were all passionate about what they did, their mission and their story. This is where the big “aha” moment came to him of starting a business based on the foundation of 1) a passion for telling your story and 2) publicity as a mechanism to reach as many people as possible with that story.
  • Andrew wasn’t sure if he could make a go of this. At first, his goal was modest: get a few clients just so he could pay the bills and take care of his family. He never imagined that it could turn into a highly successful business with scalable growth. So what was that moment when the lightbulb went off for Andrew? As Andrew shares, it was coming home to his kids. Every day he would come home from work, look at his son and think that he wanted to leave him with something. Every day he would look at him and think “what can I do for him,” “what can I leave him,” and not just money. Andrew wanted to give him something he never had growing up, a legacy to build on, something he could be proud of. Today, Andrew isn’t simply in business for himself, he is creating a story of moving forward that he can pass on to his children.
  • Update: since our interview, Andrew has further developed his big why into his ultimate goal – helping veterans. Despite all of the success he has built as CEO of The Publicity Guy, Andrew feels it’s time to put his efforts into helping his fellow men and women who have served and sacrificed. Andrew is following his big why to the next iteration. It started when he shared his story for three years around the world, then took on an entrepreneurial form with The Publicity Guy and now, he is directing his gifts towards working with veterans. Andrew is moving forward.

Knowledge bursts:

  • Andrew’s tip to pitch your story to the media, to get it out there:
    • Press releases and blanket messages (“spray and pray method”) are a waste of time. Do direct contact, applying a “sniper target” method. It takes a little more time but it’s important to do your homework: identify those reporters or journalists that have a beat that matches your niche. In other words, find someone who is reporting on your industry, your specialty or service and talk about them. Andrew uses a dating analogy. If you approach a beautiful woman in a bar and only talk about yourself, you’re not going to get very far. Make sure you are present and showing genuine interest in that person. The same applies when reaching out to someone in the media. Treat it as if you’re “flirting with someone you’ve never talked to before.” The steps are:
      • Research: do your homework on the media source or reporter.
      • Compliment: show that you’ve done your homework.
      • Ask: for the opportunity.
      • Humble brag: close with a 1-2 sentence pitch for why you’re a good match.
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • Ontraport: a great knowledge management, productivity, and organizational tool. You can set up tasks and notifications, reminders. It’s also a CRM tool that helps you keep track of your customer information.
      • Andrew’s hack: be consistent with it. Keep use it regularly, it will help run your business that much more smoothly.
  • How Andrew recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • Andrew loves to unplug with two movies, usually a stupid comedy like ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ This is Andrew’s way of decompressing after being in the entrepreneurial grind all day long. Andrew admits that this is a practice most fellow entrepreneurs would advise against but for him, it’s just the perfect way to recharge, reboot, and reset.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • Andrew shares a time that most people would not admit to. There was a period in his past when Andrew was disrespectful to his wife; a dark time filled with emotional abuse. Although there was never any physical abuse, Andrew shares that this was worse. At the time, he thought he was an amazing guy and that she should simply appreciate and respect everything he has done as this was during the height of his speaking career. Andrew was sharing a story, fixing other people’s problems; when he hadn’t addressed the ones he had at home. Andrew would tell his past self “to stop running from the past because you’re never going to get away from it. It’s time to face it, face it head on, go in and forgive … and move forward.” Andrew did eventually face his past; going to the prison and forgiving his mother for everything that had happened. This changed everything, including his relationship with his wife. In retrospect, Andrew would have loved to have done this much sooner. Moving Forward listeners, we get one shot at this thing called life. We all have a story, a story filled with hopes, dreams, joy, pain, and loss. Andrew has been thru more than most of us can even imagine. And yet, he has found the strength and courage to own his story, to share it with the world and in the process, he has saved lives. Imagine what your story can do. Imagine what gifts and knowledge you have that can make a difference. Isn’t it time you moved forward?

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “It’s time to change the world.”

Connect with Andrew:

MF 127 : Moving Forward with Passive Income and Raw Land, with Mark Podolsky (“The Land Geek”)

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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Mark Podolsky (aka “The Land Geek”) is a raw real estate entrepreneur and host of three hit podcast series (whoa!). Today, you’ll learn Mark’s top tips for creating passive income in raw land investing.

Successes at a glance:

Setback failure or time when things fell apart:

  • As you’ll discover in Mark’s “aha” story, things went really well for him. His transition was done in a smart way. He explored raw land as a side venture for 18 months (on the advice of his wife) rather than immediately jump into it after his initial success. Once Mark made the transition, he created a very successful passive income-based business, starting in 2001. However, Mark candidly shares that it wasn’t all his success but rather his timing, entering the market. This changed in 2008 when the housing and real estate bubble burst. However, because raw land is in the “long tail” of real estate, Mark’s business didn’t feel the effects of this for another couple of years. Mark was living a great life with a huge home, private school for his kids, luxury cars and more. As Mark describes, his personal overhead was “crazy high.” But then, in 2010, the passive income stream hit a wall. The market crash had caught up with raw land and all of a sudden, 50% of the land notes were being defaulted on. Mark soon found himself in a place where he could no longer maintain the lifestyle he had grown accustomed to.

The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • Before becoming ‘The Land Geek,’ Mark’s life was very different. He wasn’t smiling that mile wide grin in his photo. He was as he describes “a very unhappy investment banker.” Mark was involved in building other people’s businesses, specializing in mergers and acquisitions; analyzing companies all day long. And he was miserable! Mark’s days consisted of a long 45-minute commute, being micromanaged over long hours, high stress and zero control over his work-life balance. It was so bad that Mark didn’t get the “Sunday blues,” he would get the “Friday blues,” anticipating that the weekend would go by too fast! That’s pretty bad.
  • The first big “aha” moment came when Mark met a guy who his firm had just hired. It turned out that on the side, he was going to tax deed auctions, buying up raw land and flipping it online for 300% returns! Mark, being from St. Louis (in the “Show Me State”), and spending his days analyzing companies where 15% was considered a high return, was naturally skeptical. But Mark was also curious. On a whim, he decided to go to a small town in New Mexico. At the time, he had $3k in the bank which he was saving for car repairs. But Mark decided to take a calculated risk. He followed the guy’s outline and purchased 10-3 acre parcels at $300 each. Mark then put them on sale online and by next week, they sold for an average of $1200! The guy from the “Show Me State” saw first hand those 300% returns!
    • What is raw land? It’s basically dirt: undeveloped land with no improvements made on it; usually lacking any electricity, water or septic systems.
  • From this initial success, Mark reinvested the profits at another tax auction in Arizona, buying up as much as he could. On his next transactions, Mark made $90k+! Mark had his proof of concept. He went to his wife to have that “I think I’m going to quit my job and do this full time” conversation. His wife’s reaction? “Absolutely not!” Hearing a voice of balance and reason, Mark decided to continue part-time to see if this model had long-term staying power or was just a fluke.
  • Over the next 18 months, Mark balanced his demanding full-time job, his family and personal obligations, all the while exploring the potential of raw land as a business. Not an easy juggle, but Mark’s persistence paid off. At some point, the raw land income exceeded what he was getting paid at his day job. That’s when Mark knew this wasn’t just a fluke and decided to quit his day job and pursue this full-time. Mark left his job in 2001 and has been doing this ever since. Today, Mark has automated his business with systems, software and created scale using the latest technology, including drones. This is what we call moving forward in a scalable way!
  • Here’s the thing, Mark grew up like many of us did. He had the narrative programmed into him of: go to school, study hard, get a professional career and work hard for a pay check. Nothing wrong with that … if that is what you love. The problem was Mark didn’t love what he was doing. He made a good living, but he wasn’t living. He was miserable. He also knew nothing about raw land or real estate. On a whim, he decided to explore something new, immerse himself in it and the fruits of his labor speak for itself. As Mark shares, the missing element in the early part of his career was the happiness quotient. He had to create that for himself by redefining what his career and life looked like.
  • Flash forward back to 2010. For 9 years, Mark had been living a great life, building a highly profitable business. However, the market crash finally caught up with raw land and it was time for a pivot. Mark couldn’t afford to maintain the lifestyle with only 50% of the income that he had just a few months ago, been making. So Mark made a personal pivot. He slowly scaled back on the lifestyle expenditures. He admits this was a tough transition but he also calls this a blessing. He reflects that sometimes we all need to have our ego “knocked down” to give us perspective and evaluate the priorities in our life.
  • So what was Mark’s next big “aha” moment and pivot? He started treating his business like a business. Before then, it was easy due to the way the market was performing. During the high point years, Mark didn’t need to put much effort to put up a property and have it sell. This meant he could do well without worrying about relationships or customer interfacing. It was as Mark describes, “too easy.” Mark was forced to create systems and good relationships with customers, to create long term passive income streams, rather than rely on one-off sales. Some steps that Mark took to retool his business:
    • Creating greater customer interaction thru auto-responders and education pieces.
    • Creating a process to identify better, more solid land investors to reduce default risk on notes.
    • Teaching his customers how to be better land buyers, thus solidifying long term relationships with a foundation of trust.
  • The best part? All of this work has enhanced Mark’s business to establish him as an authority on raw land. Mark isn’t simply in it for the quick win, he’s in it for the big win – one that is long term, sustainable and benefits all involved. Mark went from moving forward in his own life to scaling the benefits so that his customers and clients could move forward too! Today, Mark has created a system with 90% automation that allows him to focus on creating long-term relationships thru education and a win-win mindset.

Knowledge bursts:

  • Mark’s automation formula: the “30:1 rule:”
    • If it takes you minutes to accomplish a task, it will take you 30x or 150 minutes to teach someone that task. That 150-minute investment will eliminate a 5-minute task from your to do list. Applying this rule has allowed Mark to automate his business so he can focus his time on revenue and relationship building.
    • Applying this rule, Mark closed 192 deals working 2 hours a week with Frontier Properties.
  • One piece of advice for looking at raw land as a side gig:
    • Get educated! It’s a simple model but not easy. There are a lot of pitfalls. So learn as much as you can but then take action. Or citing the famous adage “eat an elephant, one bite at a time!”
    • Here are some raw land pointers from Mark:
      • Do some county research.
      • Get a list of people that own raw land.
      • Scrub that list, eliminating residential homes, etc.
      • Send out those offers to purchase:
        • Do the comps to figure a price point.
        • Apply the “Warren Buffet margin of safety” of 300% (look at the comps, divide by 4).
        • Send out the offer!
      • Don’t be in the appraisal business so keep it simple.
        • Mark’s rule. Applying the 3x margin, your acceptance rate should be about 3-5%. If above that, you’re probably pricing too low. Below 3%, you’re probably pricing a little too high.
      • Due diligence checklist should include (but not be limited to):
        • Legal consideration
        • Clean title
        • More
      • Close the sale and now you own the property:
        • Do the deeds
      • Start marketing the property and aim for 30 days or less
        • Go to the neighbor
        • Go to Craig’s List
        • Go to land forums
        • Go to Facebook
      • Sell property on easy owner terms
        • Money down
        • Simple payment plan (monthly terms) – this will increase your passive income potential without renters, rehabs, rodents!
      • Big picture: once your passive income exceeds your expenses that’s when you are no longer working because you have to but because you want to.
  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired Mark to move forward:
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • Airtable (www.airtable.com): as Mark describes it’s the offspring of a spreadsheet and a database which is user-friendly with ready-made templates and is fun. Mark is running his entire business on this!
  • How Mark recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • Meditation. Mark recommends two apps.
      • Headspace: a fantastic meditation app that breaks it down into 10 minute chunks.
      • Sway: this one is great for those who love to move and can’t sit still.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • Visiting his past self during the worst days of his investment banking career. Mark would tell himself, “Mark you’re going to die anyway, just go for it. What are you so scared of?” A practice that Mark shares is to do fear setting rather than goal setting. Consider what is the worst thing that could happen. Lose everything? Become homeless? What would Mark do? He would camp out at a 24-hour gym in Newport beach, go to the library and start over (and he has confirmed that his wife won’t leave him) so Mark has already figured out and accepted that even if the worst case scenario happened, he would be just fine! Moving Forward listeners, what’s holding you back? Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of the what ifs? Try Mark’s exercise. Play it out, write it out, take it to its logical conclusion. If you’ve made it this far in life, chances are, you’ll be just fine too.

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “There is no try, only do.”

Connect with Mark:

MF 125 : Why Social Media is the Ambivert’s Most Powerful Secret Weapon, with Lisa Chau

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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Lisa Chau is a renowned speaker and social media strategist who has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post and NPR. Today, Lisa will share why social media is the ambivert’s best friend for moving forward.

Successes at a glance:

  • Renowned public speaker and social media strategist
    • Communications Manager at MedAffect and Digital Strategist for WatertreeHealth
  • Featured in Forbes, US News & World Report, The Huffington Post, NPR

Setback failure or time when things fell apart:

  • Lisa candidly shares, she didn’t just have a difficult moment or year but a decade that is still ongoing. In her words, ten years ago, Lisa’s life “spiraled downwards.” However, because Lisa is very adept at social media (as is her current job), you couldn’t tell that things were falling apart. Lisa doesn’t dive into great detail on the decade-long setback but shares that it was all encompassing: the period included the loss of her grandfather, the end of a second engagement, and other events that affected both her personal and professional life. Despite having an outgoing social media presence and what looked like a very successful career on paper, Lisa felt very alone and “adrift without any anchors” in her life.

The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • Let’s back up a bit. Lisa’s career journey has been anything but conventional. In high school, her aspiration was to become a corporate attorney by day while moonlighting as a fashion designer. Lisa went to college, first as a philosophy major, then switching to economics with a philosophy minor. Out of college, Lisa joined Estee Lauder and then Tommy Hilfiger, though not quite in the fashion designer role she envisioned in college. With her degree in economics, Lisa was knee deep in excel spreadsheets and expense reports. Along the way, Lisa was offered a position in business development and marketing for a company, headquartered in Hong Kong. Lisa took the opportunity which led to a lot of travel, including Switzerland, Germany, China, Japan, and Korea. As you will see in the knowledge burst section, travel has become an important part of Lisa’s life and identity.
  • At some point, Lisa was called back home, mostly by a desire to pursue a graduate degree. This led to her enroll in Dartmouth, where she planned to continue her studies in philosophy, one of her big passions. However, Lisa shares that a “few detours” took her on a different path, this time a Masters in creative writing!
  • This opened the door for Lisa to enter a career in social media and digital media strategy that she never imagined possible because just a few years ago it wasn’t! While Lisa’s career was very much on track, her life was also in turmoil. So how did Lisa make it through the months, the weeks, days and the minutes of a turbulent decade that’s still going on today?
  • In speaking with Lisa, you can immediately tell she’s not a quitter. Lisa is also very present and self-aware. She shares a truism: that when you’re in the midst of a struggle, recognizing a moment when things are starting to shift and align is not always easy nor apparent. Lisa shares that one of the benefits of coming on this episode of Moving Forward and talking about her journey is that she can recognize that there have been great shifts and breaks in the 10-year downward spiral. Lisa shares several milestones where things started to “click into place.” Notably, there were six events, each of which led to another momentous breakthrough in Lisa’s exposure and prominence as a digital strategist.
    • In 2013, Lisa moved back to Manhattan and became Executive Director of The Ivy League Group on LinkedIn. Lisa helped spearhead the formation of the New York chapter of Ivy Oasis. All of this groundwork led to a pivotal moment in 2015, where she was tasked with helping organize a prominent entrepreneurial conference at Columbia University. Although the event ended up happening during a huge snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast, over 100 people showed up to hear from 12 prominent panelists.
    • Out of this, Lisa was invited by the Bahamas Millennial Society to be the international keynote speaker during their first future leaders’ forum.
    • This, in turn, led to Lisa being invited to be a featured guest on ‘Midday with Dan Rodericks’ speaking about millennials and digital strategy, which aired on NPR’s Baltimore affiliate, WYPR.
    • The following year, Lisa was invited to speak at Charlestown’s third annual Dig South conference on the subject of digital media. This is a highly prestigious event that included speakers from Google, Instagram, Twitter, Tech Crunch, Buzzfeed, and Inc. At this particular event, Gary Vaynerchuk delivered the kickoff speech.
    • Flash forward to summer 2016, Lisa was invited to give a workshop at Brand Innovators Inaugural Business Bootcamp for Entrepreneurs.
    • More recently, in February 2017, Lisa led a career talk at the third annual 1vyG conference.
  • So what led a self-admitted ambivert to speak and present at some of the most prestigious events in the entrepreneurial space? Simply put, it’s been a combination of a lot of perseverance, determination, and hard work. Also, embracing social media and putting herself out there has been a game changer, especially being more transparent about her hardships. Lisa, by nature, is an ambivert and so networking does not come easily or naturally to her. Thus, social media has been an invaluable tool for Lisa to make incredible connections, while also sharing her work to a receptive audience. She is still struggling with the personal and professional aftermath of her decade-long spiral. But in speaking with Lisa, one thing is abundantly clear: this setback has not prevented her from making huge leaps. Lisa put a lot of effort into the first milestone, setting up that first conference at Columbia. However, the other events were opportunities that simply fell into place. Lisa’s determination and hard work has and continues to pay off in dividends and this inertia is what keeps her moving forward.

Knowledge bursts:

  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired Lisa to move forward:
    • Living in the woods of Hanover, NH. Lisa is a New Yorker, born and raised. For Lisa, living in the woods may as well be living on the moon. At the time, Lisa had finished her graduate degree and was working at Dartmouth’s Tuck business school. Lisa was pushed out of her comfort zone by friends at Dartmouth to try this new, foreign experience and she found it to be a great one; one that could allow her to calm her mind, write and reflect.
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • Hootsuite in conjunction with Twitter:
      • Lisa shares that Twitter is an extremely powerful and underutilized tool when it comes to building your brand or business.
      • Provides 24-7 access to business leaders and the c-suite.
      • Hootsuite allows you to pre-plan and schedule your tweets.
    • Google Calendar to organize her life.
  • How Lisa recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • When Lisa hits a roadblock, she temporarily distances herself from any projects to clear her mind and reboot. Ideally, Lisa does this with travel, especially overseas. But temporarily unplugging from the hustle and bustle of the day can be as simple as taking a walk outside.
    • For travel, Lisa highly recommends Amsterdam. She has made two trips so far and found it to be the ideal environment for making great leaps moving forward in entrepreneurship, technology, and the sharing economy. Lisa also shares that it’s a photographer’s paradise.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • When Lisa was on staff at Dartmouth, she would take as many classes as she could, attend lectures and participate in many activities. However, when she moved back to NY in 2013, she stopped pursuing extracurricular learning, while admitting that she could have continued to do so. Lisa’s advice to her past self is to take advantage of those opportunities to audit classes, attend lectures and continue learning!
  • Lisa would also like to have known about the amazing The Oxford Experience Summer Program, which I highly recommend to any of you looking for something different for your summer vacation or break.

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “Always add value.”

Connect with Lisa:

 

MF 124 : Declaring Independence From Child Hunger, with David Sloan

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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David Sloan is the Maryland Director of No Kid Hungry – Share Our Strength. Today, David will share what Independence Day means to him and how we can all join in the fight to end child hunger.

 

Successes at a glance:

  • Maryland Director of No Kid Hungry – Share Our Strength
  • Former Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party
  • Former Aide to Governor Martin O’Malley
  • Former Coordinated Campaign Executive for Barack Obama’s 2012 coordinated campaign
  • Former Political Director for Barack Obama’s 2008 Maryland Campaign

A “windy road” and a calling to end child hunger:

  • David has always been a dreamer. As a child, his dreams were to make a difference and be a force of positivity. This inkling took him to a career in politics, working for the Democratic party in the state of Maryland, including a long stint with former Governor Martin O’Malley; a personal hero of David’s. David also advocated for President Obama’s reelection in 2012 as a Coordinated Campaign Executive. David’s work allowed him to connect with many grassroots organizations led by both Republicans and Democrats. In speaking with David, one thing that stands out is that he is driven more by advocacy work for great causes than by partisan politics. Specifically, David got to work with organizations and leaders in the area of poverty: local food banks and community centers. David took a particular interest in combating teen and child hunger. In 2007-08, David put together a press conference for the O’Malley administration in coordination with Billy Shore, the national co-founder of Share Our Strength. The press conference announced an ambitious initiative to end child hunger by 2015 in the state of Maryland. Part of this agenda was to bring together public and private entities and combine resources to end child hunger. Over the next several years, David got to see this great organization work hand-in-hand with state government, private entities, and NGOs. While child hunger didn’t end by 2015, the concerted effort made a significant dent and inspired David on his next career move.
  • After finishing his tenure with the O’Malley administration, an opportunity arose in the Maryland Division of Share Our Strength and today, David is helping to lead the fight against child hunger in the state of Maryland.

What July 4th and independence mean to David:

  • On a basic level, July 4th holds the same meaning to David that it does to all Americans: a celebration of freedom and the birth of our nation in 1776. On an individual level, independence is about having the opportunity to thrive and create a better life for one’s self and one’s family. For David, freedom is about having equal opportunity but when a child is facing hunger on a daily basis, those opportunities become severely limited. This is why David has devoted his life and career to help eradicate this problem and ensure that all children have that opportunity to grow, thrive and move forward.

Knowledge bursts:

  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired David to move forward:
    • The Bible: David’s faith, having grown up in a Methodist household, inspires him on a daily basis. For David, it comes down to having a mandate to love and serve his fellow human beings.
    • Documentaries on The History Channel: in particular (and no surprise), David is a fan of the documentaries on The Presidents and Congress.
    • PBS Frontline Documentaries: especially the ones on social justice issues and movements that have shaped our country.
  • Career tip for someone who is interested in serving a cause or working for a non-profit:
    • Be patient with yourself and open your mind to a new way of thinking. There’s so much out there in terms of causes and issues, that the mentality for many is “to go out there and save the world.” There will be lots of setbacks along the way if you choose this as a career path. So David shares the mindset of “one” to keep you moving forward: “one victory, one person served, one person helped, one more person who is now more aware of the issue you fight for.” This should be your benchmark should you take this as your career path.
  • How David recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • First, David advises, as much as possible to achieve a work-life balance. David admits this is an area that he is constantly struggling with and working on.
    • Second, and related to that, make sure you are creatively attending to your mind, spirit, and body. For David, this comes in the form of church, family, music, and sports. As David shares, when he’s intentional about those areas, he is just a better person and can focus more when he is at work.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • David would tell his younger self that throughout your career there will be ups and downs, sometimes things won’t turn out great. But 1) if you realize no one knows everything, 2) if your heart’s in the right place to do the best job and 3) if you ask for help and allow yourself to be vulnerable about what you don’t know, everything will be ok and you will soar. Moreover, you will attract the people who will want to mentor you and want you to see you succeed. In 2005/06, David had just finished college and was thinking about his next step; specifically about getting involved in politics and public service. David ended up interning for the O’Malley campaign. Later that fall, David was presented with the opportunity to be a county campaign manager. At the time, David was very hesitant to take the job because he was so afraid that he didn’t have the “proper background” for this dream job. David kept thinking he had the wrong college degree, that he needed to go to grad school and play “catch up” before he could take on that kind of responsibility. But David took the position despite those fears, living by his philosophy of catching up thru hard work. Because he took a chance on himself, David’s career took off; becoming the state party director in 2012. Each step along the way, the feeling of “this job is bigger than me” followed him, with a lot of the same insecurities he felt when he took his first leap into becoming a county campaign manager. Today, David has a greater appreciation for the benefits, to himself and those he serves, by taking the leap of faith and moving forward.

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “We can get it done.”

Connect with David:

Moving Forward with Extraordinary Individuals in the World of Music

We celebrate these extraordinary individuals for bringing us the gift of music and for being examples of what it means to find your purpose and your passion, to pivot and move forward.

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

MF 123 : Alain Mayrand on How to Score Your Career with Perseverance and a USP

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

MF 111 : Bree Noble’s Career Composition as a Music Entrepreneur

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

MF 110 : How Jordan Goodman Has Moved Forward Since Episode 044

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

MF 072 : Vera Volchansky Shares a Huge Setback on the Road to Superstardom That Opened the Door to an Amazing Career

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

MF 071 : Jordan Smith on How Becoming a Maestro at the Pivot Led to a Great Career as a Conductor

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

MF 070 : Matt Thomas and Ryan Keaton: From Playing in Bands to a Business that Connects Artists to the Biggest Brands in the World

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Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

 

MF 044 : Finding the Rhythm to Freedom, Passion and Being, with Beatwell’s Jordan Goodman

MF 123 : Alain Mayrand on How to Score Your Career with Perseverance and a USP

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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Alain Mayrand is a composer and orchestral conductor for film and the founder of Score Club. Today, Alain will share how perseverance + a USP (unique selling proposition) can move you forward in a big way.

Successes at a glance:

Setback failure or time when things fell apart:

  • Pursuing a career as a film composer isn’t easy. As Alain shares, there is no clear cut road map and many times, it requires tolerating something that no composer wants to hear: silence. Alain started out by putting himself out there, scouring internet billboards and seeking out independent and small film projects that he could cut his teeth on. Despite having the academic credentials and the desire, there was a lot of silence in the beginning. However, as Alain reveals, silence is not a sign that your work is being ignored or worse, that you’re not liked. It’s part of understanding the process of working on a film. A film is a large machine w/ many parts and each part, including the score, has a place and time in the production process. Not hearing back usually means that it’s not the right time in the production process for the filmmaker to be considering the score or soundtrack. Know that when you send out your email or pitch, it may not get looked at right away or even for a long time. Be prepared for silence and embrace it as part of the filmmaking process. There is a time and place for you to get that response and understanding that is critical to moving forward as a film composer.
  • The other reality is that there is a lot of rejection in this industry. Having been an actor, I can attest to this. Film composers spend many years studying their craft; putting together samples of their work and pitching to many film and TV projects. While Alain has built an incredible career scoring and conducting for some of today’s biggest films, there was a lot of rejection along the way. While there was no one specific “fall apart” moment, there is a question that he asked himself along the way that all artists face at one point or another: “am I going to succeed in this or am I going to be a cautionary tale.” Being a film composer is a highly rewarding career but not an easy one to break into. While many believe a career in the arts is about having “luck,” for Alain’s moving forward journey, it was about the hard work and perseverance in creating his own luck.

The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • Alain has had a passion for music and in particular, film scores, ever since he was a young boy. It, therefore, made sense for him to pursue it as a career. Alain studied composition in university, focusing on piano with a minor in jazz guitar. He followed this with a Masters in composition. At one point, Alain was at a crossroads: he could have pursued a comfortable career path in academia, having paid his dues in the classroom. Alain decided not to pursue this route and opted to be a concert composer. However, Alain’s real passion was working in film. Alain had grown up listening to soundtracks and scores, often recording them from the television so he could listen and study them. The problem was that he didn’t know that this could be a career track much less how to pursue it. The first “aha” moment came when he took two courses offered in school in film composition and from that moment, he knew that this is where his future was. Moreover, Alain wanted to pursue his career on his terms which meant, as he puts it, spending some time in the “woodshed” working on his craft as a composer. So Alain went on internet sites where filmmakers would post and share project needs. Alain also built up connections by talking to professors, mining both the academic halls and the freelance projects that were posted online.  Alain got his first taste of scoring music while working on compositions for short and independent films.
  • By the time he finished his masters, Alain had completed four compositions that were “film moods,” spanning genres from romance to action. Alain also got a group of students together to put together a small ensemble and record film moods for chamber orchestras.
  • As noted above, Alain’s career didn’t come about thru random luck. While some composers stumble into great opportunities via great circumstances and others are great at networking and “schmoozing” at parties, neither describe Alain’s road to success. Instead, he had to come up with his own path to a career in the arts. While trying to break into film, Alain gained experience in concert music; honing his skills as a composer. Alain enjoyed the freedom of composing on his terms and having his music delight listeners. Despite this, he ultimately decided not to continue with it because while he loved the experience of concert composition, his passion kept calling him back to film. Alain loved the entire package of being part of the storytelling process, adding music to the visuals on screen. Having this big “aha” moment of clarity is when things started to shift.
  • A few years prior, Alain had done work on a short film called ‘Say Yes’ with Neil Every, who went on to become one of the writers of ‘The Legend of Silkboy.’ Having worked with Alain on ‘Say Yes’ and appreciated his work, Neil advocated for him to be the composer for this project. At this point, Alain had never worked on anything of this scale. On top of that, ‘The Legend of Silkboy’ was an animated feature and the only experience Alain had, had up until that point was working on an animated short while in school. However, as Alain shares, there was something special about this project. While Alain didn’t have much experience scoring animated projects, he grew up thinking he would become an animator and to this day, he maintains a passion for animated stories. Neil’s advocacy combined with the work that Alain had already produced convinced the director to hire him for ‘Silkboy.’
  • While this in itself is an amazing story, Alain also shares an important point about perseverance in this accomplishment. He not only had never handled a project of this magnitude before but he had his fair share of naysayers. There were people who were not in favor of Alain being the composer for this project. While our own doubts and insecurities can be hard enough to deal with when given a first big break, having external forces against you can sometimes be crippling. This is where we either back away or double down. Alain chose the later. He put together a document proving that he was up to the task, never letting anyone’s doubts derail his desire to do this project. Moreover, Alain got to know the director, having conversations with him about the vision of the film. As a result, the director got to know Alain’s work and as revealed in this interview, was convinced when he listened to one of Alain’s pieces which he said was exactly the type of score he was looking for. So you may be wondering what kept Alain moving forward and on course to his seeing his dream career become a reality?
    • This was Alain’s passion from childhood. While it took a long time to figure it out as a career, at the heart of it, he knew that this is what he wanted to do. This is extremely important, Moving Forward listeners. Anything worth pursuing, whether it’s a rewarding career or business has to be something you believe in because the higher you aim, the more you will face doubters and naysayers. So make sure you are moving forward with something that really lights you up.
    • Alain knew he could do this. Despite never having worked on a project this large before, he had paid his dues, both academically and in the real world; working on various projects that honed his skills. Further, he had proven himself to one of the writers who advocated on his behalf. If you know anything about film or TV, you will know that writers are extremely protective and particular about their projects. It was no small thing for Neil Every to put Alain’s name to the director when it came time to pitch a composer.
  • Having proved himself on ‘Silkboy‘ and by virtue of his work as a composer in residence, Alain saw the doors open and open wide. Alain’s differentiator (or his U.S.P.: unique selling proposition) is that he isn’t simply a “computer composer” but a composer that still loves to work with live orchestras. While ‘Silkboy‘ was a great feather in his cap, it was that combined with his work as a composer in residence that led to his next project, ‘Elysium.’ Alain knew the music editor, Rich Walters, and during post-production, got an opportunity to put his U.S.P. to work. The film’s composer hadn’t done a movie before and they needed an orchestrator to make the score come to life. Because Alain had positioned himself as an orchestrator (as well as a composer), Rich Walters naturally turned to him and Alain delivered, providing a live orchestra for ‘Elysium’s’ soundtrack.
  • And this, of course, has opened new opportunities. When you think about the pieces in Alain’s story: hard work, relationship building and that U.S.P., it’s reminiscent of the stories of some of the successful entrepreneurs we’ve had on Moving Forward. Alain is no different. When you think about it, Alain is not only a great composer and orchestrator, he is someone who has dominated a niche with skills and experiences that many young artists can benefit from. Moreover, Alain shares a great lesson that many of entrepreneurs, including myself, take years to learn. You don’t say yes to every project that comes your way. This is especially necessary for composers. Composition is taxing, both physically and mentally. Saying yes to every project isn’t practical or healthy. Often, projects are priced too low to be worth the time and emotional investment. Instead, Alain has struck a great balance by taking on fewer, more meaningful project that pay better and in between, leveraging his skills and U.S.P. into teaching others composition. Through ScoreClub, Alain has been able to pass on his skills and the nuances of his U.S.P. to help guide and shape the budding film composers of tomorrow. Moreover, Alain is able to use incredible technologies such as online courses, to create solutions that would have benefited him when he was coming into his own as a composer. As Alain shares, this is “sending the elevator back down” via a scalable, evergreen business that allows him to be choosy when it comes to film projects. This is what we call Moving Forward in a big way!

Knowledge bursts:

  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired Alain to move forward:
    • The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky: Alain studied many genres, including jazz and rock, but always felt he wanted to push the limits of each. It was Stravinsky’s piece that made him realize that this was possible and that the “environment was completely open.”
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • Google Keep to manage ideas:
      • Alain’s hack is to make it a two-step process: 1) put the idea on a notepad and then 2) organize those ideas into Google Keep at the end of the day.
      • This allows you to quickly jot down the ideas and then organize them later while having them sync across all devices.
  • How Alain recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • Reading books on mastering the creative process by pioneers like Edward De Bono. By focusing on building these muscles, Alain finds he doesn’t hit those roadblocks as often – a proactive rather than reactive approach!

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • Alain admits this is a tricky one for him but when it comes down to it, his advice to his past self is simply, “just be you.” The reason is that if you try to follow everyone else’s advice, you will force your way down a path that isn’t your own and will not work. For Alain, his career wasn’t about following other people’s advice or path. It was about creating his own luck by leveraging his gifts, skills, and U.S.P. which evolved from his passion for orchestral music, composition, and storytelling in film. This is the essence of moving forward as an artist: being true to your character and what moves you to create. Finally, Alain advises “be patient” and know that it will work out. Since being an artist and a film composer requires dealing with a lot of silence, this is sage advice that would have saved him a lot of guess work and alleviated some of that early insecurity.

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “Aim for true excellence.”

Connect with Alain:

 

MF 122 : James Nowlin’s Formula for Success (Hint: “Read the Freakin’ Manual!”)

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above.  Moving Forward is also available on iTunesStitcher Radio, Google Play and iHeartRadio.

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James Nowlin is CEO of Excel Global Partners and author of the hit book, ‘The Purposeful Millionaire.’ Today, James will share how to achieve great success by following a simple rule: “read the freakin’ manual!”

Successes at a glance:

Setback failure or time when things fell apart:

  • James walked away from what on the surface looked like a dream career. He worked hard and succeeded, becoming the first in his family to pursue higher education, get a graduate degree and break through into white collar success. James had the corner office w/ the floor-to-ceiling glass, a secretary and paralegal working for him. He was commanding a six-figure salary at age 26. James was successful but he was not fulfilled. He faced daily torment from a boss who harbored prejudice against James for qualities that had nothing to do w/ his intelligence or work ethic. As you will learn, later on, James walked away and decided to branch out on his own.
  • While walking away from a 6-figure job is bold on its own, imagine doing so during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Soon after James left the corporate world to start his consulting business, the economy bottomed out. As the housing bubble burst, James saw many of his friends lose their homes and several declare bankruptcy. James was “skyhigh” in law school debt and had gotten used to living a 6-figure lifestyle that included a BMW, house and material objects that at the time he thought was necessary to show his success. On top of this, and due to the recession, James had no clients and no income. James wasn’t entrepreneurial bravado, he was scared, laying awake at night, questioning the sanity of his decision. While many might have given up and sought their way back into a corporate job, James wasn’t content to do that.

The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:

  • Let’s go back to the beginning: James has had quite the journey of moving forward. He left his parents’ house at the age of 17 to go to college. The first “aha” or awakening occurred when James saw demonstrations of familial love from his classmates. James had grown up in a fractured environment, replete w/ domestic violence. Seeing and listening to students talking to their parents on the phone, having conversations about money, books, classes and peppered w/ “I love you” statements, gave James great pause. He had never known this growing up. So James decided to start modeling the communication behavior and end conversations w/ “I love you” to his mom. James also started modeling some of the financial decisions he saw fellow students making, especially when it came to investing in their education. Specifically, he saw students asking their parents for money; not to buy things but to audit courses and to learn beyond their majors and standard curricula. These were two very big “aha” moments that permanently set James on a path of self-empowerment, uplift and more authentic communication w/ those who are close to him.
  • Following college, James went to medical school before dropping out to pursue a law degree, which he completed. James became an attorney and was recruited as an associated at a prestigious law firm in Dallas. Sounds like a pretty good success story, right? Actually, this was the precursor to the amazing life that James leads now. Like many young individuals w/ aspirations to do better for themselves, James pursued a professional degree and landed the 6-figure job. The age-old narrative of education then stable corporate job that many of us grew up w/. James was the first in his family to break through into the white collar world. The problem was, the fairy tale career wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Despite all the trappings of success, James never felt that practicing law in a firm environment was his calling. While James was recognized for his talents and work ethic, his boss let him know in no subtle terms that he was not comfortable working w/ James who is a gay man, of color. James knew that staying in a toxic environment was the wrong choice; one that would ultimately cause him to “self-destruct” or “implode” if he stayed. Moreover, James knew he didn’t deserve this kind of treatment and that he should be judged by his intelligence and the content of his character. James made the decision to walk away.
  • James started his own business, Excel Global Partners, leaving both the firm and the practice of law behind. James made the pivot into business consulting. James’ entrepreneurial goal was to help businesses optimize financial and managerial performance.
  • Although starting a business w/ no clients and no income during the worst recession in recent history was a big setback, James now looks back on it as part of his growth. He is now more financially conservative and doesn’t equate wealth w/ material possessions or toys. He also attributes this difficult period w/ giving him the humility and wisdom to be a better businessman, leader, and person. As James reminds us, it is the tough times that stretch us and test us to our limits.
  • So how did James pivot and create a successful business that has made him a Purposeful Millionaire? James didn’t have a lot of role models growing up but he knew that mentors had the power to shape, guide, and inspire. He sought counsel and it was one particular mentor that taught James a valuable lesson w/ one question: “would you rather be right or would you rather be rich?” While many entrepreneurs see their path as getting away from a boss, James takes a different approach. He sees his clients as his many bosses and as such, he takes the philosophy that he can’t be right all the time (even when he is). In other words, James’ role is to help his clients navigate to the best possible solution and not preach to them what they should or should not be doing. It was upon hearing that advice that gave James a big “aha” moment: he realized that failure is an option and that it’s ok to fall flat on your face sometimes. As James shares “if you risk nothing, you gain nothing.” This has strengthened James’ “courage muscle” to keep executing and to keep trying, even when it doesn’t end up working. This has translated into a mindset hack that James shares when it comes to working w/ clients: don’t tell them what they “need” to hear. Instead, learn what they want and adjust. This means that sometimes when you tell a client what you think is the best solution, they may outright reject it. Instead of stewing or resisting this, James digs deeper to find out what the client wants. When he minimized his ego, James found his business and his happiness expanding. That is James choosing to be rich over right.
  • Today, Excel Global Partners, is a leader in business consulting, serving clients throughout the US and abroad, James has found incredible success and recently published his first book, ‘The Purposeful Millionaire,’ which quickly became a top best-seller.
  • Though his journey hasn’t been an easy one, through it all, James has found himself and his purpose. It all started when James started modeling healthy and empowering behaviors from fellow students in college. This led James to develop habits of self-development, reading books, learning and investing in assets over things. James sums up his 19-year, “overnight” success journey w/ one simple mantra: RTFM (“reading the freakin’ manual”). This allowed James to develop the self-awareness in his identity and dignity: standing up for himself and the conviction that he does not deserve to be treated like a second class citizen; making the brave decision to walk away from a toxic corporate environment. James took a leap of faith and pursued his “divine calling” to be a leader in business and help inspire and empower others. Today, James is living a happy, healthy, wealthy, and purposeful life, filled w/ abundance and joy.

Knowledge bursts:

  • Resource or cultural experience that inspired James to move forward:
    • ‘The Science of Getting Rich’ by Wallace: this book is the source material for many others that followed; framing wealth as a mindset of planting seeds of success and not being held back by limitations. The biggest lesson that James has gotten out of this book is the idea of investing in yourself, staying the course and letting the universe respond favorably.
    • An African Proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.” For James, it starts w/ intention and then taking action.
  • Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
    • Join.me: allows James and his team members to share their computer screens. James like it bc it’s fast, reliable and gets the job done!
      • James’ hack: text a link to share a computer screen when talking to someone and you have to describe what you see the screen.
    • 3 minute mindfulness: a mindfulness app that sends daily reminders to breathe and reflect on the day.
  • How James recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
    • James admits this is a challenge. With a successful business and a highly successful book launch, James has been putting in 16 hour days. This has been taxing w/ fatigue and a strain on his system. Now that the book launch is complete, James is looking forward to getting away, turning off the phone and spending time w/ his partner.
    • James also makes his home his sanctuary, complete w/ soothing sounds, and scents; making it the ideal environment to recharge.
      • Turn off the external, turn on the internal.
      • Meditation hack: still meditation doesn’t work for James so he does his meditation while in motion; during yoga or free body weight exercises. During this time, James is super focused on being intentional w/ his breathing and his thoughts.
      • FLOW philosophy: fulfilling life by optimizing work. Executing the administrative responsibilities as quickly as possible so he can maximize the time he spends on sharing his gift w/ the world.

Start Moving Forward with Audible and two free audio books:

Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:

  • “Don’t compete, be unique!” For James, finding himself meant he had to stop chasing after something, whether it was being a lawyer, a doctor or collecting material possessions that we often equate w/ wealth. James grew up w/o healthy or positive models for success. This led James to struggle w/ trying to look successful to eventually figuring out that success wasn’t about the car you drive or the gadgets you have in your home. James only found his purpose when he stopped trying to be someone else and just embraced who he was and the gifts he could offer to others. James took a long journey to become a happy, successful, and healthy, Purposeful Millionaire.

Parting wisdom (in a few words):

  • “Be Yourself and Diversify as Quickly as Possible!”

Connect with James: