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Design Your Life And Dominate Your World With RUKE

TBT 124 | Design Your Life


How do you design your life and create a business that will give you the life you want? RUKE, a creative entrepreneur, artist, video gamer, and creator of World Dominating™ Brand, shares his insights on this with host Penny Zenker. As someone who has built his entire business from what he loves to do, RUKE is a great believer that your need to live a fulfilled life can coexist with the need to run your business successfully. In this episode, he engages in a far-reaching conversation with Penny about a lot of different topics revolving on this theme. Don’t let your life dictate you; design the life you want for yourself and dominate your world. Listen to this podcast and let RUKE help you begin that process.

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Design Your Life And Dominate Your World With RUKE

Ruke, welcome to the show.

I’m so thrilled to be here.

If there’s anybody that is going to teach this audience how to work smarter, it’s you. I think the reason that you’re motivated to work smarter and come up with all these great ideas is you want to play.

If you’re going to do business, you might as well have fun with it. I tell people, “If you’re going to do it, you might as well let’s play.”

You’re working on these world-dominating plans. This whole umbrella of world-dominating strategies. I wanted to talk about that a little bit in the context of how that helps people to work smarter.

First of all, I have a free gift. I’m going to throw it out there. It’s how to craft a world-dominating message. If you go to WorldDominatingPlans.com, because everybody needs a plan. Everybody wants to dominate the world. Here’s a whole idea on how to world dominate. The biggest thing I get accused of is I’ve designed my own life. Dominating your own world, it’s not the earth. It’s not the whole world. It’s giving you permission to step in fully into your power and be you. That’s world-dominating.

Who doesn’t want to design their life? That’s why entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs. Many of them, a segment of them, because they want to design their life.

TBT 124 | Design Your Life

Design Your Life: If you’re going to do business, you might as well have fun with it.


I was taught that from an early age. I was on a phone call with my mom. When the times are different, she’ll walk in my studio. One time she came, she says, “I’m glad I never limited you. I told you could do anything you want.” I get that from my mom. She’s amazing. She never limited me. I had two voices. My dad was limiting. My mom was like, “No, you can do anything you want.” I listened to my mom and I poured that into my kids. The World Dominating Brand was developed as our education division of my full-service marketing advertising from Blink because I feel we all have that power. I want everybody to step into whatever they want with all their passions. I have one rule for my kids. “Whatever you do, win, lose, or fail, I don’t care how many times you fail. Give it your all. Pour into it everything with all your heart and soul. If you want to change up your career 100 times, I don’t care. Be you. Be what you’re supposed to be.”

Those missteps can be a huge catalyst. We would rather have fewer than more. You said it’s about crafting your message. Why is that important to dominate your world to be smarter?

This is at WorldDominatingPlans.com. You can download this worksheet. The entire lessons on one sheet. It’s nothing hard. That’s also saving time and being dialed in. What’s great about this is I’m a branding guy and people have taught us. I’m sure I fed into it years ago. When someone walks up to you and they go, “What do you do?” It’s pleasantry. No one listens to what you say afterward. You’re bored. You go, “What do you do?” “I do this.” What most people say is something clever and witty that some guru told them to say because it sounds like all sizzly.

What happens, and this is what’s wrong with that, is when you say that to someone, they’re thinking of what you said, but not what you said. They’re thinking, “What the heck does that mean?” There’s nothing for them to respond to. I believe if you have a world-dominating message and I call it my undisputable message, here’s mine. “I help CEOs build companies that honor their family, their passions, and their finances. I do that through sales, branding, and marketing.” That’s it. I’ve gotten checks written to me because of that saying, going, “I have to hire you.” I didn’t tell you what I did. I told you what you want. I told you the results that I get for clients. If you look at the history of my digital footprint, it rings true. If you talk to my clients, it rings true. If you watch the future me, it rings true. Therefore, it’s undisputable. We talk about world-dominating since I know it resonates with me and it’s part of my morals, my ethics, and what I accomplish. I step into it with a different energy than this is what I do tactically.

I think that’s super important. I talk a lot about energy management and it’s as much of how you show up for what you do than what you do. I want people to embrace that in understanding that they have to bring that type of energy to their message and to everything.

Step into the full power of what you do. Most people are lost because they feel they’re identified with the tactical things they do, not the results that they give for people. More importantly, the desires that your audience wants. When you go, “What do you do?” I was part of a networking group and there are only seven people and it took an hour for everybody to introduce themselves. That’s hard to do. You see the monitors, you see the attention span. It was terrible. When I said mine, it was short and sweet. I showed them respect. I became an instant authority because here’s what you want. When someone says, “What do you do?” They say pleasantry, but it’s an opportunity for you to step in. When you say something that’s clear and profound, not clever and witty, then people go, “What do you do?”

Penny, if you listen to when they say, that’s an invitation for you to step in to now have a conversation. That’s huge. When you say it with that clarity, that power, you are the authority. How many of us want to be heard? They go, “Penny, I want the world to hear my message. I want people to take me seriously.” You get that all the time. You’re awesome at branding. When you step into this and go, “This is what I do,” and speak from a result-oriented, a desire-oriented, already right then and there you become the authority and whatever you say rings true because it is true. People now want to listen to you.

Design your own life. Dominate your own world. Click To Tweet

People are attracted to results. You said earlier and I want to come back to that because I’m big in understanding the difference between tactics and strategies. A lot of people with all that they’ve got going on, they get trapped in the weeds and in those tactics, that keeps them from connecting to that higher purpose and to their end result. In the end, it keeps them from connecting to their ideal customer.

When they identify with their busy work, which isn’t how. They get caught in that. That’s the tactical part, there’s nothing emotional about that. They can’t step into it and that, and that’s their self-worth, that’s how they identify themselves. That doesn’t resonate with anybody. As soon as you say, “This is what I do for people,” and you don’t frame it that way. You don’t go, “This is what I get for people.” You don’t, because that’s the wrong phrasing. However, if you speak to the results that you get for people, you, good people like us who care and get things done, we can step into energy. It’s not about us anymore. It’s about them. When I tell you that I help CEOs, it’s about the CEOs that build companies. It’s about the company that honors or family or passions of their finances. It’s about them, the clients. You light up. Your whole heart space changes talking about what you do for people, not what you do tactically, and what you get hired for necessarily.

They know where they can go. They can go to WorldDominatingPlans.com to check that out. I want to pick your brain about some other things as well. It may come back around to that. You talked about designing your own life. You’ve done that in different ways. How did you organize yourself so that you could do that? A lot of people are going, “That might work for you,” then there’s a whole list of reasons why they feel that they can’t do that. What worked for you? What did you put in place that helped you to design your own life?

First, I had a mom who encouraged me to be me, which gave me the freedom, that never put limits. I pour that into my kids and so forth.

Their parents in line, does that mean that they didn’t give you a bedtime? Does that mean that they didn’t tell you that you didn’t have to go to school or you didn’t have to eat your vegetables? What did that mean for you in terms of not limit you?

It’s whatever idea they have, you listen to their ideas and you contribute to their ideas and they go, “You can do that. That sounds great. Go get it.” It’s not, “You’ve got to think about this and you’ve got to wait until you’re older.” I treat my kids like they’re adults with respect. They have a voice. I honor their voice. They correct me as much as I correct them, like Victoria. This is why I learned very early. I’m busy young. This was years ago. I get upset because maybe I didn’t take my hat off that day. I have my CEO hat on walking into the house and that’s the wrong energy to leave the office. I go, “No, do this. You go to your room.” I told her, “Don’t correct me in the heat of the moment.” I’ve grown past this, by the way. “If you think I was wrong, come tell me later, not then when dad is upset.” She would and I’d be like, “You’re right. I was wrong.” You get a get out of jail free card. After a while, a pattern happened and I tend to forget that I’m always wrong because she always had a good reason. You’ve got to listen to them. You have to honor their voice that they’re not kids. They’re little people that have ideas, who have reasons. You’ve got to explain why and talk it through and encourage them.

Here’s what I’m getting. I’m going to read between the lines a little bit too. People who are reading, they may also have employees and the relationships between our kids and our employees are not that different. What I heard you say was that your parents and you, as a CEO, you’re listening to the market, you’re listening to your kids. You’re listening first. What I heard you say was that they would encourage you, which I’m going to interpret a little bit there is that as they listen, they probably asked you, like you asked Victoria, “Come back and give me a plan. Why don’t you work that idea through and tell me how you’re going to do that?” I’m interpreting it a little bit, but that’s what I heard they probably encouraged you to flesh out your ideas and not put it down and give you the opportunity to see where those ideas would go. They probably didn’t do it for you.

TBT 124 | Design Your Life

Design Your Life: Step into the full power of what you do.


I have analytical kids, that works for others that are creative, that doesn’t. For the kids specifically, I find reasons to compliment them. I find reasons for what they do and go, “That’s amazing.” I tell them why I appreciate it and why I’m proud of them.

For people reading, this is important for your employees. We’re talking about kids but this could be the same. If you’re building a culture in your organization, you want to be doing this for your employees. I want to point out also, and I’m sure you do this for yourself, Ruke, because we have to do it for ourselves. We have to remind ourselves and compliment ourselves where we can because we’re so critical on ourselves as well. Would you agree with that?

I’ve been blissfully married for many years. I have four daughters, a son-in-law, two moms, five dogs, all girls. There’s not a lot of me that I have two that I focus on, honestly. I have cheerleaders. I will tell you that when I hire people, you have to be a positive cheerleader for the brand and brand ambassadors, the whole nine yards. I expect that out of them. That also means that I have to be that as well. When it comes to the employees, yes, on your agenda should be, “Have I complimented them?” You should be looking for proactively what can I say positive about them and go, “Good job?”

I did it to my son-in-law. I will tell you, the other part of this. They’re my boss. I’ll tell them all the time. When they call me boss, I’m like, “I’m not the boss. We’re together. The company has to serve you as much as you serve the company.” When I make critical decisions, they’re all involved. I do that with my children and the family, even including my young child who has a voice of, “We’re thinking about this. What do you think?” It’s all a discussion. I absolutely do with my team. I don’t call them employees. I say I write the checks, but Paula writes the checks. I own everything, but it’s not that. They’re my team. They all have a voice. They all have expertise. I look for reasons to compliment them. I don’t make any major decisions without their involvement. I remind them, I say, “I want your opinion because this means this for you and for us in the company. I want to make sure we’re in the right direction that you want us to go in.” That is a team conversation.

Isn’t it how you designed the lifestyle and designed your life? I remember you saying that you have a family contract or something like that. You would go and you would discuss with your family, “Here are my goals. Here’s what it means to the family. Here’s what we may have to sacrifice.” Tell us more about that too because that’s part of designing your life.

It is because you have to have buy-in. I can tell you that there are a lot of reasons why I’m successful. One is Jesus Christ. Two is my mom. Three is my wife. Beyond that, it is my family. It’s my kids. I’m proud to say, Victoria, she is 51% owner of one of our companies. She is my boss legally. Justin oversees, my company runs it and it’s ours together. When we have our contracts, it’s going, “This is what I’m looking for. What are you looking for? How is this supposed to serve us? Here’s risks and rewards. Here’s how long we’re going to give it. Here’s how much money we’re going to invest in it.” We’re going to revisit it 90 days to see if we liked it. There are a lot of endeavors and we go, “That wasn’t as fun as we thought. Let’s either change it or let’s forget it.” There are a lot of ideas that we put out there that it’s not worth pursuing anymore.

I’m harping on the design of your life. This wasn’t necessarily the direction that we were 100% going to go in, but I think there are a lot of people who can resonate with that. How do you plan your week? Do you have a worksheet for that too?

Find out what’s nagging you. That is where you have to implement a solution. Click To Tweet

A lot of what I love is branding and sales. You and I’ve talked about this fun stuff because you have similar techniques. Mondays are the day that we talk corporately. We go through all the jobs, all of our alliances and partnerships, any corporate decisions. Any corporate conversations, we all have on Mondays. Tuesdays are when we create stuff in production and all that. Wednesdays are when we check in with our clients. Thursdays are a repeat of Tuesdays, and Fridays are our dream days when we work on the business, not in the business. From that perspective, we have an energetic mindset way that we run the company. By the way, we’re an agency. We have milestones. We have systems and processes that we can look at all of our projects, all that stuff. We have that backbone to that. We also scheduled the way we show up differently so we can put the right hat on at the right time.

I think it’s important. There’s wearing the right hat, which I love. It’s the energy that you’re creating in the company. This could be for people who are reading, you might have different departments. Each department might have different sets of themes, but it does help in the culture that everybody knows that you’re focused on that. It creates certain energy moving forward in that direction.

One of the things that you said is how you design your own lifestyle. Part of that, it’s also declaring what you need. That’s what we use a lot. It’s like, “This is what we’re trying to do. To be able to do that, this is what I need.” I look at them and go, “What do you need? What do you need from me?” That crease that conversation because now it comes out of support, not dictated, get that done. I also look at trajectories like, “This is cool. This is where it’s heading. If it keeps going that way, this is the outcome. Is that what we’re looking for? If not, let’s adjust it now.” Look at those trajectories, keep us on point headed towards the future, continually moving forward as well.

What I’m pulling out of that, which I want people to think about is when we’re delegating something. Delegation is working together as a team. You’re handing an assignment down and you ask something important. What do you need? A lot of times I find and I hear people saying that their bosses, they don’t stuff on them. They don’t want to ask any questions and they don’t have all the information they need. What if you added a little bit more structure and a few questions that the person who’s giving the delegation could ask and the person who’s receiving can also ask? That’s going to create much better communication in that to set the milestones when are you going to check in for those trajectory checks and things like that. Anything that you want to add in terms of your delegation process?

Some people go, “Don’t be needy. Don’t talk about your needs and tell you what you want.” I think that creates the wrong conversation. There’s a difference between a teacher and a dictator, and it’s going back to kids. I told this to my kids’ teachers. “There’s a difference between a teacher and a dictator. You’re a dictator because you’re telling my kid, ‘Do it my way.’ A teacher tries to figure out how to get to the student.” You have to do the same thing for your teammates. They have talents. Sometimes you need to shift their roles to their talents. That’s okay. We’ve hired four people and I’ll go, “Here are the three things. I need you to absolutely nail this. I need you to be good at this. This is where I think I can grow you. However, if those priorities change, we can change your role. No big deal. Understand, here are my expectations. Now you tell me where you want to be.” You’ve talked about what is critical, what’s also where we can play, and what’s possible, where it’s going, and where it’s headed.

“Here’s where we are. Here’s where we’re going. Is it going in the right direction?” You’ve got to give that flexibility and we talk about needs. That’s real. That means you have to be open up to talk about what I need. That means they have to be self-reflective. That’s scary for people because sometimes that means, “I need more pay.” Sometimes that means, “I need more time.” Now you have the right conversation though because these things get buried and they get piled on. They build up and then that’s when you have explosions in the company because the boss has dumped many things on top. Now they’re drowning. They are so much drowning, they can’t identify even not their needs. They can’t identify their names anymore.

Some of those organizations that have brought me in and I’m like, “Okay.”

TBT 124 | Design Your Life

Design Your Life: Sometimes you need to shift your teammates’ roles to their talents.


You created a safe space to have those conversations without judgment. You have an organization and here’s what’s cool, you have the permission. You’re the boss you write the checks. It’s your company. Now you have emotionally the permission to express your desires and what you want out of the company. Do you know how many CEOs carry that guilt? “I’m not working as hard as them. I’m cracking the whip, but now I’m going to go on vacation,” and they feel guilty because they’re on vacation. You haven’t expressed the mutually beneficial needs and that’s what an organization does. Here’s also what’s cool. When I say that we help CEOs build companies that honor their family, their passions, their finances, ultimately, it’s not about us. It’s about the clients. It’s what’s best for the client. When you have, “We’re here to serve them. We’re a team.” That is world-dominating.

That’s creating that world-dominating culture. Maybe to shift gears a little bit. What’s the question that you ask yourself that keeps you working smarter? Everybody’s got this central question that they ask themselves. What’s yours?

What’s nagging me?

What does that mean?

We have that conversation too all the time. When you wake up in the morning, the hair stands up, it stresses out. What’s nagging you? That means we’ve got to implement a solution there. That means it’s a pattern that keeps showing up. Let’s create a technology solution or maybe we hire someone for that. I tell them that to my head marketing guy. “What’s nagging you? What do you find yourself repetitively doing that’s bugging you, that’s not sitting right with you?” That means that we have to delegate that because it keeps showing up. That’s how you also expand and scale in the right way too.

We started out with the client, let’s come back around to the client. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. Getting to that message and getting that clarity of point across. Why is it important that we have that clear message? How does that help us to work smarter?

If we met and I didn’t understand this, and you’ve seen this, so I’m going to play the whole other side. “Ruke, what do you do?” “I do websites. I do branding. I built funnels on an illustrator. I have a cool mom. My mom talked my dad into giving me private lessons when I was in the third grade. By the way, they were divorced. I had two different advocates on my side. I went to Ringling School of Art and Design. I haven’t told you the color of the chair I’m sitting on. You’ve got to hear it.” He’s like, “What?” If you can’t say what you do in 1 to 3 sentences, we know you haven’t mastered it. Everybody else knows this. We know you don’t do it. When you’re throwing all these out. You’re saying this, “I want to say this. Maybe you want a website. I’m talking about how we do sales funnels Maybe you need a sales funnel. I don’t want to miss out.” That is a different type of need. That is being needy. Now we know that you don’t do that.

We can't have everybody as clients. We want the right kind of clients. Click To Tweet

When I tell you that we do build companies that honor your family, your passions, your finances, I didn’t tell you what I do. I told you what you want. I’m speaking to people’s desires. If that’s a desire you want, if that is the outcome you want, I’m the guy. It’s a whole other level of conversation. I don’t mention websites. I don’t mention sales funnels. I don’t get into those tactical deliveries until later that we agree upon a goal. This is why this is so cool because if you don’t want that, you’re not going to resonate with me perfectly. If you do, you’re going to invest with me. That’s huge.

What I’m hearing you saying is from the start, you’re establishing your credibility and authority because with that 1 or 2 sentences of what it is that you do. You’re establishing a quicker rapport with that because the authority establishes rapport. As well as the fact that you’ve said something that they want and they connect with that. What I also am hearing is that you’re going to weed out the people that aren’t a fit for you, so you don’t need to have, “I do this and I do this,” because, at the end of the day, you have a core essence of what you do. We want to have a smaller pocket of people because then those people are listening and we can then hone down and we’re going to have a shorter sales cycle. Those are results that we’re going to get from creating that simple message.

If you’re networking, you’re going to have to meet someone three times to build any kind of trust. First, they don’t listen to you. Their barriers are up. They’re judging you. They’re questioning you. They’re not listening to you. It’s only that. The second time they’re going, “This person’s coming back again.” Let’s say you go into a networking group. “Maybe I’ll listen to a little bit more. My barrier’s a little bit down.” By the third time they see consistency, their barriers are down. When you use your undisputable message, the barriers go down, their ears go up immediately. You cut your sales cycle right there. I’ve done deals in the first meeting, not three. If you’re telling you have a three-month sales cycle, that goes it down to a month. If it’s three weeks, so on and so forth. That’s what we want.

We can’t have everybody as clients. We want the right kind of clients. I’m also speaking about my morals and ethics. If we agree upon that, we’re going to have an incredible time together. You’re right. It builds rapport. It builds trust and it establishes it right then and there. You also respect them. They feel it. They might not be able to articulate it, but they go, “That was short and sweet. Yes, you do.” That’s all we want. We want to be invited because that’s what’s beautiful. They go, “Tell me more.” Now you’re invited to sell. They invited you to go, “Sell me.”

They invited you for a conversation.

I’m a stickler on this. It’s a sales sheet, not an onboarding sheet. It’s a sales report, not a conversation report. They’re saying, “Sell me, tell me more.” I believe in selling by serving. You’ll give value. A whole other conversation. You serve them. That’s how you earn that business. Now you’ve been invited into it and the barriers aren’t there. You get that conversation. You can talk about solutions and needs and see if it’s a good fit. You can do that right there in the first meeting if you use a world-dominating message or you have to get through the psychological three times meeting minimally.

What’s your definition of productivity and why?

TBT 124 | Design Your Life

Design Your Life: Productivity is getting your tasks done without exhausting yourself.


I feel productivity is getting your tasks done without exhausting you. You can buy time. You can buy money. Those aren’t the most precious commodities. That’s another conversation. What you can’t buy is mind share. We can only process and think of many things at once. At the end of the day when you say what’s nagging you, that’s getting rid of those little things that you’re thinking about so that you can have your mind open and you can do whatever without thinking. You can do it with full-on energy with all your passion and you’re accomplishing your goals. That’s productivity for me. There are many people that work hard, but at the end of the day, they can’t think of another single thing. That’s frying you and you’re going to crash.

Thank you for being here. We’ve covered a lot of different topics. It’s all about creating. I want to bring it back though. Even though we didn’t define what’s upfront, I do think that’s the theme of this show. It’s designing your own life. All of those are aspects of designing your life and creating the business that’s going to give you the life that you want.

You can have the life you want. You can’t let it dictate you. You can’t take it. The way you get what you want out of life is by giving those around you what they want and need too. Together, you can literally exist with those goals. That’s what works.

Where can they find your worksheet again?


Thanks for being here, Ruke.

I love being here. Thank you for having me.

Thank you all for being here. I hope that you’re going to take those first steps and actions through the notes that you’re taking and going to that site, WorldDominatingPlans.com so that you can start with your world-dominating message. Think about how it is that you want to design your life so that you can work smarter and create what you want for your own life and in doing so, also serve others. I’ll see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Ruke Ruke

TBT 124 | Design Your LifeRUKE, is an Artist, Author & Inventor
See RUKE’s Trailer here https://youtu.be/MgR_mVXJKrA
He’s Described as a Creative Entrepreneur and Artist who Transforms Visions into Reality.
Ruke has worked with Intellectual Properties of Disney, Marvel and Chico’s.
He started his first company, Ruke Illustrations, 2 Decades ago and grew it into blink, a full-service Creative Marketing Studio.
After great success, he upped the fun by jumping into the Video Game Industry, first representing them and then creating them.
In 2010, all the experience and talents were combined to create Game Nation, an Experiential Video Game Theme Park and Resort concept.
RUKE became an Inventor, in 2016. He received a Patent for “A System and Method for Providing a Multi-Players game Experience” in a physical space, bringing video games to life.
He enjoys spending quality time with his family playing Video Games, Legos or working on miniature sets and worlds inspired by Star Wars.
  • RUKE is Privately Trained as an Artist Since the Third Grade.
  • He Still Has Every Star Wars Toy Since Childhood.
  • He Married his Wife 3 Months After 1st Date…It’s been 20 Years with 4 Daughters.
  • They Plays Video Games as a Family on a Weekly Basis.
  • RUKE Started his First Company 22+ Years Ago and is Still Making Money With It Today.
  • Invented a Method for Bringing Video Games to Life.

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Letting Go And Delegating With Christopher Swartz

TBT 123 | Delegating Tasks


When you’re scaling your business and adding new people into your operation, there’s always going to be a temptation to continue to keep tasks to yourself because you don’t absolutely trust the people you’re working with. But delegating tasks can mean the difference between scaling your company and stagnating, so you have a choice to make. Christopher Swartz is a Managing Partner with First Choice Mortgage Advisors, LLC. Joining Penny Zenker, Christopher goes into the most important aspects of delegating tasks. Learn from the tips that Christopher and Penny share, and make yourself a much more efficient entrepreneur in the process!

Listen to the podcast here:

Letting Go And Delegating With Christopher Swartz

On this show, we are dedicated to find different tips and tricks and people who are going to help you to work smarter because that’s what it’s all about. You don’t want to work harder and make less money. You want to make more money and do less in doing that. This is what this show is all about. It’s helping you to take back time. Christopher Swartz is here. He is a mortgage loan officer and managing partner with First Choice Mortgage Advisors. He has many years of experience in the mortgage industry, serving a wide range of clientele, providing them with different residential mortgage loan products. Chris specializes in conventional, jumbo, FHA, VA, and renovation mortgage loan.

He’s won a lot of awards too. I was impressed. He was nominated by Mortgage Professional Magazine for their Young Guns Award for mortgage professionals under 40 who are making the big waves in the mortgage industry. He was also back-to-back Five Star Mortgage Professional Award winner in 2018 and 2019. He was featured in the March 2019 edition of Forbes Magazine as a market leader. He’s 1 of 8 mortgage professionals out of 4,996 in the Philadelphia area to receive this award. He also got some other passions in his life. He is the host of a podcast called FUEL, where he talks to high-level people and explores the foundation under extraordinary lives. He’s looking at how do people get the most out of their lives. Chris, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me, Penny. It’s a pleasure to be on the show and talk about and share what we do. Sorry for the mishmash of different things there. We’ve got the mortgage industry, which is my passion and what I do, and then the podcast, FUEL, which we can talk about as well. There’s a whole lot going on. We’re trying to manage it all and stay organized is the key.

There are no apologies necessary. That’s what we do. That’s a great start. We are somehow apologetic for all the interests that we have and all the things that we want to be involved in. The truth is that we can do a multitude of different things and see success and all of those areas.

If you have a plan and you’re focused, you can achieve success in different areas and different industries. If you look at some of the most successful people in business and entrepreneurs especially, generally they don’t just have one business. If you have that entrepreneurial bug, you’ve got a couple things going on. You can do it if you manage it correctly.

That’s what makes us more productive. Don’t you find that as you’ve got these different interests and things that you’re doing, you’re forced to look at it in a way where you’ve got to schedule yourself better? We’re going to talk about delegation. What are some of the things that you do that enable you to have multiple interests and multiple areas of success?

The biggest thing is getting organized, looking at what you have to do, and getting that down. There are many different ways to get organized. As an entrepreneur and as someone that has gone through a lot of coaching and those types of things, there are many different tools. I’m not going to get into what works and be like, “Try this one.” You can use a simple notepad. I have my little digital notepad, the reMarkable tablet. It’s simple and you make your to-do list. There’s fancy software. You need to figure out what it is that you’re looking to do, get clear on what that is, and then map it out.

When you say clear on what you want to do, do you set goals in those areas?

You can set goals as a top-level where you want to be, but then breaking it down into little micro goals like, “Where do I want to be by the end of the day?” 

That’s how we get there. It’s one day at a time.

The biggest thing is figuring out. You can set those top-level goals and where you want to be in 3, 6 months, 1 or 5 years from now, but you have to start with today. You’re not going to get there if you don’t know the steps along the way. Mapping that out and then figuring out what that looks like for you is the first step to being able to manage multiple businesses, multiple interests, whatever you want to call it. It’s getting clear on what you want and then getting crystal clear on the action steps that you need to take to get there.

How do you manage your day?

Speaking of technology, one of the things that’s been great is I live by my calendar. If it’s not on there, good luck. Whether it’s the family or the work, I have to put it on my calendar. Fortunately, we have these wonderful digital platforms where you can integrate everything and all these different systems talk. I use the scheduling software. There are a slew of them out there like Calendly and all of these scheduling tools. I use OnceHub and that changed the game for me.

I used to have an assistant that used to spend all this time scheduling. I can relate to that. I was able to eliminate a position because they can do it themselves.

Make sure you set and keep track of your top-level goals. Click To Tweet

You almost have this built-in. The key to all of this is efficiency. How can you drive efficiency into your life and your business? This little simple tool is $10 a month. Some of them have free versions. It’s simple, but it gives you back that time. You’re talking about taking back time. In my business as a mortgage broker, all I’m doing is chasing people down. I need to schedule a time to talk about your loan process. I need to schedule time to talk to you about your want to buy a home, and all of these things. You can imagine. You’re trying to chase people down and say, “Does Thursday at 2:00 work for you?” “No, it doesn’t.” You’re back and forth and there’s all this time loss. My scheduling tool has been the simplest little life hack to running my day. It’s like, “Do you want to meet with me? Do you want to do whatever it is? Here’s the schedule. Put yourself on there at a time that works for you and I’ll show up.”

Before you used a tool like that, how many times did you have to reschedule a meeting because it was scheduled and then they had to reschedule, and it goes back and forth? How many of those do you think you had?

Hundreds if you add them up. Not only that but we have a team of people that work at our company and they’re getting that time back. Think about if I had hundreds of appointments throughout the year that I spent hours upon hours trying to figure out a time to even connect, multiply that by my team in our company, how many hours are they wasting going back? Everybody on the team has this tool. You can always call us. We’re accessible like we were before this. This is one little thing that if it works for you, you can use it. It’s going to be more efficient 90% of the time.

I know you probably don’t track this but I’m curious, how many hours a week do you think that you save for yourself? We could multiply that by the number of people that you have. How many hours do you think you saved from a simple tool like this?

It’s a bit of a guess. My whole business is driven by appointments. I’d have to say I’ve got a good 1 to 2 hours back a week if you add it up.

That’s huge. It’s not to be sneezed at. If you think about that, 2 hours a week times 4 weeks in a month and then times 12, it’s 96 hours.

When you think about whatever it is that you do, what is your time worth an hour? One of the biggest things for me is knowing the value of your time. If you talk about any type of currency, time is the most precious form of currency that we have. To give somebody an hour of your time and saying, “I got two hours a week back,” is priceless.

People don’t realize it. They think, “We save 1 or 2 hours,” but an hour or two multiplied by every week, what could you do with 96 or more hours a year? You could do a lot of things with 96 hours. You could do something you’re additionally passionate about. Thank you. I wanted to put that into perspective for people of what that can mean. What else do you do? You talked about calendaring as a key thing and scheduling those appointments. We had talked about delegating as something that you do a lot of. Tell us a little bit about that and how important that is in your day.

In the mortgage industry, as you evolve in any career, you did things in the beginning to get started because you had to. Maybe you didn’t have the money or the resources, or you didn’t know any better. As I’ve evolved through lots of coaching and self-exploration and figuring out, “What am I best at? Where am I able to serve the people that are looking for my help in the highest and best capacity?” You start to peel that back and you look. There’s an exercise that we like to do with our team. This is a phrase that’s coined from one of my coaching groups. I can’t take the phrase but they call it the Acts of Freedom. It’s a hokey term for sure, but what it is, you list out everything that you do during the day and who does it.

The first time I did that exercise, there are 47 tasks on my side and there are three on the other side. You’re like, “Do I need to be doing this?” “No. This person can do that,” or you create a role that doesn’t exist. You create, “I don’t need to do all these things because my time is worth X. I could have somebody do these tasks for a fraction of that.” If your hourly worth is $50 to $100 and you’re doing tasks that you can pay somebody $15 an hour, you need to shift that. The biggest thing for me is the shift in delegating those things. Not that I can’t do them. It’s just keeping me from doing what I’m best at.

If we can pay somebody half of what our value is worth out there generating new business, that’s a no-brainer. It’s key to do that exercise. I’ve done a similar type of exercise, I call it The 4-Hour Workweek dedicated to something I learned from Tim Ferriss. It’s how you can reduce down the tasks that you’re doing. You said something critical and what I have in my Seven Steps to Master Time Blocking is understanding the value of your time. A lot of people focus on tasks that are not in their highest and best interest or low-value tasks because they’re not focused and in connection with what their time is worth. I wanted to highlight what you said, which is somewhere along the way, you’ve got to be clear on that so you could get clear on what it is that you’re going to delegate.

Whether it’s somebody that’s you’re working with now or somebody you need to go out and find, at least you can define the tasks that you would like that person to do. From there, you list the job of making sure that you are clear with them on the things that you need them to do or finding the right person to do those things. Those tie into Tim Ferriss’ with The 4-Hour Workweek. That delegation piece is scary.

Some people feel like it’s a total loss of control, so they won’t do it.

In one of the groups that I’m in, we always say, “You’ve got to test the engine.” You’ve got to run the engine, let it break, and see what blows up, and then you can go in. If you think about a high level, let’s say NASCAR or some of these things, that’s what they do. They push the envelope until they say, “We can’t push anymore because the piston broke,” or whatever it was. What do we do? We make a stronger piston. That’s what you do. You learn but you have to have confidence in yourself and the judgment that you’ve made to empower that person to do the task that you’re giving them. If you’re not confident there, you’re never going to let go and you’re never going to grow.

TBT 123 | Delegating Tasks

Delegating Tasks: With the right tools, you can become much more efficient, and eliminate positions that aren’t necessary for you to do what you’re doing.


You can kiss scalability goodbye because everything runs through you and you become the bottleneck. Not only will that run you into the ground, but it will run your business into the ground as well.

For me as an extroverted person who likes to be in control, part of it was a little humbling exercise to say, “It’s not that important.” People need this task done. As sad as it may be, they don’t care if I do it or Susie on the team. They need to get to the next step. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of things that I have a need for and I feel good about but some things, you’ve got to realize that you don’t need to do it and the person on the other end doesn’t care if you do it. They just want it done.

If you could give us your top 2 or 3 tips on successfully delegating. In your mind, you’ve shared with us some of the things we need to think about to get us in the right mindset. What are some techniques or skills that can help people to be better delegators?

The biggest thing, especially if you’re new to starting to delegate, is it’s uncomfortable because this is maybe your business. That’s your baby. You can’t let somebody else possibly do what you do. Nobody will do it as well as you. You need to have some accountability with the person that you’re allowing to do those tests and you need to have some tracking in place and make sure that you’re able to check-in. The biggest thing for me with my team is when I delegate to you, I want to delete it from my brain. You own it and you’re going to let me know when it’s done or it’s going to be done and ready to move to the next step.

If you try to delegate and you don’t move on from it or you don’t have the systems in place to check in on that task, you might as well do it yourself because it’s taking up brainpower and the bandwidth. One of the biggest things is putting some accountability system in place to make sure that you feel good and you know, “I’ve delegated this to Susie or Joe. I can look over here in this system or wherever it may be and see that it’s in process,” or “We have daily check-in so we’re going to run through things.” We use another little tech hack. We use a software called Asana. It’s a simple task management system.

It’s a free tool. There’s free access for those who go, “I can’t afford any tools.” This one, you can.

We run our team with it. I’ve yet to figure out why you would pay for this tool because the free version is awesome. That’s what we use. I delegate it and we put it on there. For my peace of mind, I can look and I can see what’s still has to be done on the other side but I can take it out of my space.

You talked about accountability and making sure there’s accountability in place. You talked about having some tracking. An accountability is deadlines. It helps you to track that and do those check-in points so that you can let it go from your mind. It also helps you to empower that person to complete the task at hand as opposed to micromanagement. That’s where we killed this empowerment. When we are all over them telling them exactly what to do and how to do it, that’s not delegation. Also, the tools that you have. Is there anything else that you wanted to share? I wanted to switch gears a little bit and talk about some other things too. Is there anything else that you think that that’s worth mentioning around delegation for people who are uncomfortable with delegation?

I think we hit the highlights. It’s getting clear. There are some cool tools out there that you can use if you’re looking to delegate and you have a team in place, but you’re not sure if they’re the fit or what you should be delegating to them. Maybe you do that exercise and write the list of what you’re doing and what you could delegate. Now you’ve come up with a role that doesn’t exist. That person is going to have certain personality traits. Do you want them to be outgoing or analytical based on the role? The last thing I will touch on is that we find helpful and there are different variations of this and there’s the DISC profile and there are all kinds of different levels. You can get pretty crazy with the DISC profiling.

If you can use a tool like these personality assessments, make sure because one of the biggest things is you have a need to delegate X to somebody to free yourself up. You go out and you find somebody, “Here’s this person. They said they would do it.” You need to make sure that person is the right fit. Those tools like the DISC profile or something along those lines can gauge their personality, their characteristics, and how they’re going to thrive in a position. That would be the only other little tip that I would share. It’s making sure that the person is right for the task that you’re delegating.

For people reading, it’s important even though you may know 1 or 2 of these or you maybe even know all of them, the question is, are you doing them? Sometimes we know but we don’t do what we know. It’s also good to look at what’s stopping you from taking the action that you know is something that’s going to be good for your business. I also want you to consider that as you’re thinking about what you can delegate.

We all know what we need to do if we want to lose weight or if we want to get in shape. There’s no secret. You need to go to the gym and eat healthy, but what are you doing? A lot of these things for me, if you get involved in coaching and things, I’m dropping any earth-shattering new news on people. This is the stuff that people are doing that’s been out there, but sometimes hearing it enough to say, “It’s time that I take action on that.” That’s what I would encourage people to do. If you’ve heard this stuff before and you know about it, are you doing it? I love that. That’s a great point, Penny.

Often, we find that there’s a question that we ask ourselves all the time that drives us or drives what we focus on. At the end of the day, what results do we get? If you had to say what was the one question that you continually asked yourself, it might be unconscious, you might have never thought about this before, but you’ve done a lot of coaching so maybe you have. What’s the one question that you think that you ask yourself all the time that has made you so successful as you are now?

The question I asked, and I’ve come up with a podcast around this, my podcast is called FUEL. What is my fuel? You could go back and make it something that you would relate to, what’s your why? Why are you doing this? Why do you want what it is that you’re setting out to achieve? That’s the question. You need to find your fuel or your why. That’s the question I asked myself. Why am I doing this? That has spun into what’s your fuel?

Be clear on what it is that you’re going to delegate. Click To Tweet

I love it. I didn’t even know that was going to lead into there. I didn’t know what your question is. I want to talk more about your podcast but I’d like to know what is your why.

That was a genuine answer to your question not a lay-up into the podcast. It was fitting to the question.

People know that I don’t script this. We go wherever we go. What is that why for you? When you say, “This is what drives me and this is what I’m passionate about,” what is that?

In a nutshell, I grew up with a humble means. Single mom, on government assistance, living in an apartment, and seeing family members. Around at the time, we’re living in poverty and not achieving things that I would see on TV or the books and aspire to do. That why for me is I want it to break that cycle of being another poverty statistic. I wanted to go to college, own a home, have a family, and not repeat those cycles. The why for me drives me and takes me back to those younger years of wanting to live a better life than the people that I had grown up around with and saying, “I want to be different.”

That was and is my fuel and why every day. I can up that bar. At first, it was, “I don’t want to live this type of life. I want to own a home, go to college, and have these things.” The cool thing about it is that starts to evolve because you don’t just buy a home or graduate college and do these things and say, “I made it. It’s done. Life’s over.” That’s the why and the fuel but it continues to evolve. I’m married now. I want to be the best husband I can be. I have two girls so now the bar is up there. I want to be the best father that I can be. You can continue to build on that foundation and that’s what I do every day.

It is true that it evolves. That question for us evolves and brings us to different places. Is that where FUEL came from?

That is where FUEL came from. My passion is connecting with people, listening to their stories, and trying to provide a solution or developing relationships. The vehicle that I use to do that and my “9:00 to 5:00” is the mortgage business and industry. I’m one of the partners in my own company with First Choice Mortgage Advisors. What I’m doing is connecting with people and they’re sharing their story of wanting to own a home or a second home and all those things.

Through that, I’ve realized that my passion is connecting with people, hearing their stories, and FUEL is the platform that I’ve created, which is an acronym for Foundations Under Extraordinary Lives. That’s where FUEL evolved from. I love hearing people’s stories. The little couple of minutes there that I shared about my past and my story and what my fuel is. People can maybe relate to that and take something out of it and say, “I had a similar experience. I’m going to use that as my fuel and I’m going to change my circumstances. I’m going to make a difference.” That’s what fuel is and everybody’s fuel is different. I want to hear what I call your fuel story, what drives you, what makes you get out of bed, and have that energy and that fire.

I like to interview people that are achieving at high levels, whether it’s in their business or personal lives. I like to allow them to share their story to empower others to find their fuel and that’s what FUEL is all about. You can tune in 20 to 30 minutes while you’re in the car. Get some little nuggets and hear the story behind the person because most of these people that we interview are known exclusively for their career, “He’s the best at so-and-so. He’s the best real estate agent.”

There’s something that drove them there to be the best. I can relate to that. When we first met, we were talking about how awesome it is to hear people’s stories and there’s a different connection when you hear the backstory of someone. You’re in the mortgage business. You’re helping people fulfill their dreams because there was a dream that you had. It’s interesting to connect that story with what it is that people are doing. One of the things that I discovered and it’s morphed over time, but for me, what have been underlying if you want to call it fuel story or whatever. It started when my father passed away when I was nineteen.

For many people, it’s like the pandemic now. I got clear on what was important. Time was limited and what I wanted for my life and what was important to me. Living my life to the fullest, being the example, and being adventurous those were things that drove me so you can fill it in. You can see when you look back at all the things that I did in my life and how that was a driver. That’s awesome that you’re pulling that out in a longer conversation with people in your podcast. I highly suggest that you check that podcast out.

If you’re not sure what your why is, it’s as important to this conversation of Take Back Time so you can appreciate and that you’re aligning your goals and your values with the actions that you’re taking every day. When you do that, it feels good, natural, and it’s going to help you be more in the flow. You’re going to be able to get through more obstacles faster because you’re on that path. Do you want to share anything else, Chris?

We’ve covered a lot of good stuff. People can go out there and check out some of those tools that we talked about. For any questions, they can reach out to me and we can get you all the information on that.

For sure, so everyone can find your podcast, your mortgage service, and connect with you. We’d love for you to reach out, connect and share the stories. You’re also on LinkedIn.

TBT 123 | Delegating Tasks

Delegating Tasks: If you’re not confident in delegating tasks, you’re never going to let go and you’re never going to grow, and then you can kiss scalability goodbye.


The podcast is TheFuelStory.com. That will give you the links. You can download the audio on all your favorite platforms. If you need help on the mortgage side, it’s First Choice Mortgage Advisors. We’re in Media, Delaware County and we can serve Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. If you have any needs there, you can check us out. I’m accessible. Find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and all those places. I’d love to connect with you and share. If you want more information on any of these little nuggets or you would like to be a guest on FUEL and feel like you have a fuel story that you want to share, you can reach out. I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Thanks, Chris, for being here.

Thanks for having me, Penny.

Thank you all for being here because you’re seeing all the different aspects that go into you being able to be more successful and to take back time in your life. We talked about two important things. Understanding scheduling, delegating, how to free yourself up, and control the time that you have, and also taking a look at what fuels you. That’s it for this episode. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Christopher Swartz

TBT 123 | Delegating TasksChristopher Swartz is a mortgage loan officer and Managing Partner with First Choice Mortgage Advisors, LLC. He has 15 years experience in the mortgage industry, serving a wide range of clientele providing them with various residential mortgage loan products. Christopher specializes in Conventional, Jumbo, FHA, VA, and renovation mortgage loans. Prior to joining First Choice Mortgage Advisors, LLC Christopher worked for Keystone Funding as Branch Manager.

Christopher has completed specialized training in renovation mortgage lending. He graduated from Cabrini University with a B.A. in organization business management.

Christopher was nominated by Mortgage Professional Magazine for their Young Guns Award for mortgage professionals under 40 who are making big waves in the mortgage industry. He was a back to back Five Star Mortgage Professional Award winner in 2018 and 2019. He was recently featured in the March 2019 edition of Forbes Magazine as Market Leader. He was 1 of 8 mortgage professionals out of 4,996 in the Philadelphia area to receive this award. He is the host of the FUEL podcast where he talks to high level explores the Foundations Under Extraordinary Lives.

Christopher lives in Media with his wife Lori, their two daughters one cat and one dog. When not working, Christopher likes to travel, fish and just relax with family and friends.

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The Art Of The Story And The Sale With John Livesay

TBT 122 | Telling A Story


When it comes down to it, telling a story plays a huge part in being able to make a sale. The stories you tell ignite something emotional within the person you’re speaking to, and it’s those emotions that drive the momentum of a sale going forward, so it’s an essential skill to learn. John Livesay, also known as “The Pitch Whisperer,” is a sales keynote speaker. He speaks with Penny Zenker about shortening sales cycles with the power of telling a story. Take back time and accelerate your sales with the advice of John and Penny!

Listen to the podcast here:

The Art Of The Story And The Sale With John Livesay

I am excited for you to be here because you are committed to thinking and acting more strategically. That is how you’re going to work smarter. I’m super excited to have John Livesay with me because his specialty is storytelling. I want you to see how through connecting with emotion through your story and authentic connection can help you to shorten your sales cycle, to make more sales, and to increase the connection that you’re creating in those relationships. John has been noted or called the Pitch Whisperer. He is a sales keynote speaker and he shares lessons that he learned from his award-winning sales career at Conde Nast. His TEDx Talk, Be The Lifeguard of Your Own Life!, has over a million views and his bestselling book is Better Selling Through Storytelling. He’s also a host of the Successful Pitch Podcast and it’s being heard in over 60 countries and he has an online course on becoming irresistible when you pitch. Welcome, John.

Thanks, Penny. It’s great to be with you.

The Pitch Whisperer, I’m already intrigued and excited by l your bio and how you can shift sales teams from being an ordinary performer to being those rockstars.

That brings up a great point. I know what a horse whisperer is and a lot of people know what a dog whisperer is. I’ve never heard of a pitch whisperer. The whole goal of a great elevator pitch, a great introduction, any kind of hook, is that it intrigues our brain enough to go, “Wait, that’s something new. It sounds familiar, but there’s a little twist to it. I am intrigued.” That’s the goal, to want to know more. The problem most people make when they give their elevator pitch is they think it’s an invitation for a ten-minute monologue as opposed to saying something that intrigues people to say, “That’s interesting. Tell me more. What is a pitch whisperer?” You then have to have it ready to go.

It’s a story in itself and that story, I’m also hearing the results that you’re getting. We’ve got the intrigue, we’ve got the results, and we’ve got lots of areas of credibility. How did you come to this field?

I majored in Advertising when I was in school. I love the combination of entertainment and business, and a jingle on a commercial or a headline that pulls you in or people talking about commercials. I cut to majoring it in college and getting to be interviewed by Adweek as to what I thought were the best Super Bowl commercials that were telling the best stories. That’s what big brands are doing, spending millions of dollars on production and at the time to tell their story in a 30-second spot. I went through some intense sales training in the computer tech industry. That is great training for figuring out how you get people to spend millions of dollars on computers. I went and worked at an ad agency doing commercials for movies when they were coming out on DVD. That honed my skills.

Movies are also a story. That’s a perfect combination.

How do you reposition a movie that didn’t do so well theatrically that you might want to get people to rent it or watch it on a DVD or wherever? It was great lessons of you can reposition a movie, and then I talk about genres of storytelling when I give my talks to sales teams. Figure out what your genre is and here’s a movie that’s using it and here’s a brand that’s using it. What did you connect those dots for people? They start looking at movies differently. They start looking at commercials differently. They go, “They’re following the rags to riches genre.”

I love hearing how people connect the dots to come about to what their gift is. It’s usually rare that somebody finds their gift right away. It’s got to be through a path.

Big brands spend millions of dollars to tell their story in a 30-second spot. Click To Tweet

The path is the hero’s journey as they talk about in storytelling. I was selling advertising for many years and then I realized that whoever told the best story was most likely to be memorable because that’s the big problem. When you don’t tell the stories, you just push out a bunch of facts and figures and people forget, then the next person comes in and then it all becomes a blur to the buyer. They think, “I’m just going to buy the cheapest.” When there’s a story, there’s an emotional connection. People buy emotionally and back it up with logic. That’s a first a-ha for most people. If you buy a sports car, they’re not saying how many miles per gallon it gets. They’re saying how fun it is to drive or how sexy you’re going to feel in it.

It is important and often, there are different brain people. There are people who think with the logical side and that’s where they live. There are those creatives who are on the other side. What’s your experience been? We have a lot of people who are productivity mongers, some people who want it because they’re on the creative brain and that’s not the way they think and there are others that want more of how they think. What are some of the responses that you’ve had with people who have interacted with your storytelling that show how each of those sides of our brain embraces from the storyteller? Not from the receiver but from the teller.

Marian Knopp, who’s a virtual assistant, watched one of my webinars on telling stories. She signed up to take my course because she said, “I’m left-brain oriented. My job is to make my clients more productive and take tasks that they don’t want to do or shouldn’t be doing. It’s not a good use of your time.” She said, “My greatest a-ha moment was realizing I needed to shift from my whole life. I don’t think in my life in terms of stories, if I want to get people to hire me, I need to be able to tell my own story.” She hadn’t even thought of that as a skill she needed.

She thinks numbers and so she communicates numbers. She doesn’t realize that’s important, but maybe not the selling point that gets people to take action.

If you’re going to hire a virtual assistant, you want them to make you more productive. You also want to have an emotional connection with them. You’re trusting them with your passwords. You’ve got to have a sense of who they are and how they got there. Everyone’s story of origin, which is what you asked me to tell you is key to learn how to do it. I’ve worked with creative people. I got an architecture firm. They design airports and law offices and all these things, interior and exterior. They have to sell their work to get hired. I helped them win a $1 billion airport project redoing the Pittsburgh Airport. It was between them and two other firms that were in the final three. They said, “We typically show our work and hope that’s enough to win it.” This client said to them, “You all could do the work. That’s why you’re in the final three. We’re going to hire the firm we liked the most because we have to work with you for the next six years.” That’s when they said, “Get John in here.” What? How do we even start to make ourselves likable?

To stop you there and have people think about that. When you’re bidding for something and you’re in the top choices, it’s true. They know that all of those choices can do the work and it does come down to who they’re going to like best or who they trust also. It comes down from that connection.

Let’s talk about that because the old way of people’s thinking, “If people get to know, like and trust me, that’s the phrase we’ve heard a lot.” The problem is that when people think, “First you got to know me, then you’ll like me and then you’ll trust me. That means I need to get you to know me so here’s a bunch of information.” I tell people the order is wrong. You need to start with trust so it’s a gut thing.

How do they do that?

The handshake came about to show we don’t have a weapon in our hands. We’re in a fight or flight response when we’re building trust. Certainly in the introduction, social proof, all those things. Eye contact if you’re in person or even on a Zoom call. Make eye contact and let people know that this is a safe place. Their fight or flight response can turn off from either our friend introduced us, other things. It then moves from the gut to the heart. “Do I like you?” It’s the likeability factor we talked about. The way you show more likeability is empathy. The doctors spend more time with patients they like, teachers spend more time with students they like, the better you show you understand a problem that a client is experiencing, the more empathy you show for that, the more they think you have your solution and the more likable you are. The phrase is, “You get me.”

TBT 122 | Telling A Story

Telling A Story: It’s usually very rare for a person to find their gift in storytelling right away.


I heard them FBI negotiator, Chris Voss, talked about that. “You get me, that’s right” was one of the things he said that you’d built that connection. He’s talking about during a negotiation of a hostage situation. That goes to show you it works in any situation.

It works in every situation because you’ve got to get that empathy factor built. The better you described the problem through empathy, what it feels like to be overwhelmed or whatever the issue is, and then it goes from the heart to the head. Still, it’s not an invitation to dump a bunch of information. It’s, “Do I see myself in the story of another client you’ve helped?” Will this work for me? It’s the unspoken question there. Once you answer that and you’ve told people a story of someone else you’ve helped or in the case of the architecture firm, I was helping them tell their story of another airport they renovated. Originally, they had some before and after pictures. There was no story. We turned a boring case study into a case story that was compelling and memorable and that’s what caused them to win.

Those are beautiful important nuggets. To say that the industry talks about that know, like and trust and you’re saying flip that around. How does that go?

The easy way to remember it is gut, heart, head. Move up so the gut is your trust, your heart is about likability, and your head is about, “Will this work for me?”

I got it. It makes so much sense.

That’s what causes our brain to want to learn something new. The old way of doing this was we just accept it, but when we taking another look at it or hear another perception of it and a reason to do it, that’s what causes people to change behavior.

They have to be connected to it. What else do you think is important? When people start to tell their story, what are the common mistakes that they make that may throw them off from getting that connection that they’re looking for?

The biggest mistake I see people making is that their stories don’t have a point and they go on and on. We’ve all been stuck at a party where someone telling a story and you’re like, “Is there any moral here? Is there any ending anytime soon?” The problem is people don’t understand the structure to tell a good story. They either put 2 or 3 of the things in but not all 4. Let’s help some people not make those mistakes and give them the four parts of a good story so that they can start being better storytellers. I’m going to tell you a story and then we’re going to break it down.

One of the things I do with my clients as part of being the Pitch Whisperer, like a horse whisperer is, I help them with their confidence, calm them down when they get in front of people and they get nervous. When stakes are high for getting a job or getting hired as a client or whatever is going on. I had them write down some moments of certainty in their life. When you ask someone out on a date, got a second date. When you ask your spouse to marry you, you got a yes, you got a job. Remember those moments of other successful things and write them down.

Some people’s stories don’t have a point; they just go on and on. Click To Tweet

I had a client, Martin, do this. He goes, “The thing that stands out for me, my big moment of certainty is remembering that I was born in South America, but I was raised in the Netherlands. When I turned eighteen, my parents took me back to South America and drop me off naked in the Amazon jungle to survive for two weeks because, in my culture, that’s a rite of passage into manhood.” I go “That gives me chills. Let’s work on that.” I said, “What lessons did you learn in the Amazon jungle?” “I learned how to focus and pivot and persevere.”

I said, “It’s great. Take those lessons from the Amazon jungle into the concrete jungle of being an entrepreneur.” When he gave that pitch and told that story, he got his startup funded because the investor said, “This guy can figure out anything because he survived that.” That’s a short little story. What makes it work is the structure. The first part is exposition like a journalist. Who, what, where, when, paint that picture so people know where they are in the story. I said to Martin when he was practicing it with me, “If you don’t say that’s a rite of passage in your culture, it sounds like child abuse.”

Who wouldn’t do that to their kid?

You need to paint that picture. We know he’s eighteen. We know he’s in the Amazon jungle. We know why he’s there. It’s a great exposition. The problem is he’s there naked for two weeks. That’s the stakes that are high. The solution is not only does he survive, but he learns those life lessons of focusing and all that good stuff. Here’s the secret sauce. It’s the resolution of the story. By telling that story, he got a startup funded and he could survive the Amazon jungle to the concrete jungle. That makes people lock that in and makes it memorable. “I hadn’t thought of the Amazon jungle compared to the concrete jungle.” That’s something new. That’s going to make me remember that story a little bit better and there’s a nice resolution to it.

Do you know what I love about that? You just did that in two minutes. In gaining people’s trust, it doesn’t need to be a long story. It doesn’t have to be thrown out and whatnot. I have a question for you as a speaker. I know you do a lot of speaking and I do a lot of speaking and there are lots of different philosophies. There’s an idea of introducing part of the story, leaving an open loop and then coming back to the story. What’s your position on that in terms of engaging people and getting them more connected?

When I am telling a story, I tell the whole story because my whole goal is for people to have that emotional journey with me and then learn how to become a storyteller, but there are certain techniques. For example, when I give whoever has hired me to come and speak my introduction to read, I don’t have them read my bio. I customize an introduction and do an open loop in the introduction. One of the things in the introduction is, “John Livesay met Michael Phelps and he’s going to share that story of lessons he learned from meeting him in his talk.” That’s an open loop. Now they’re like, “Maybe I should listen to this guy talk. I can’t wait to hear the Michael Phelps story.” I use it there.

This is awesome. You’re helping us to understand what the structure is and the common mistakes are that people don’t use all of those elements or they talk too much and go in too much detail without bringing it to the problem, the solution and the resolution. Are there any other core tips that you wanted to bring to the audience?

The real core tip is making sure that there’s a life lesson, not just for you but for the audience. Since I’ve already teased out the Michael Phelps story, why don’t I tell that story? When I was selling advertising, my job was at a fashion magazine and Speedo was in my territory. They were coming out with a line of sportswear. I went to call on them to see if they’d consider advertising. They said, “No. We’re going to advertise in a fitness magazine.” I said these two magic words, “What if?” That’s a great tip for everybody to get people in the imagination part of the brain. I said, “What if we treated your sportswear like it was high fashion. We could have a fashion show around a hotel swimming pool. You could invite Michael Phelps since he’s a spokesperson. He’s on your payroll and you got all kinds of publicity.” They liked that idea and so I got the advertising but more importantly for me, I got to meet Michael Phelps. As a former lifeguard, that was a big thrill.

I said to him, “Michael, everybody says you’re successful because you’ve got feet that look like fins and your lung capacity. I’m guessing there’s something else” He said, “Yes, John. My coach said to me, ‘Michael, are you willing to work out on Sundays?’ ‘Yes, coach.’ Great, you just got 52 more workouts in a year than your competition.” The question becomes, what are you willing to do that your competition isn’t willing to do to get yourself at that Olympic level of your business? Did you see how I did the same structure again? I told you how I got to meet him and I described there was a problem. They were saying no until I came up with that solution or that idea. The resolution is all about those Michael Phelps life lessons that made people don’t know that about him and then tying it into what are you willing to do that your competition isn’t? It is a great takeaway for people through stories.

TBT 122 | Telling A Story

Telling A Story: If you’re going to hire a virtual assistant, you want them to make you more productive, but you also want to have an emotional connection with them.


It’s important that it’s true. A mistake that I see or experience is that it feels like it’s not congruent with someone. They might be telling a story that they don’t feel natural in the story. Either it’s not true for them or they haven’t practiced it to prove it.

The other technique I did there, I don’t know if you noticed it or not, is I told the story in the present tense through dialogue. That pulls people in. “Yes. Coach.” “Michael, are you willing?” Instead of saying “Michael’s coach asked him.” I told that as if it was happening in real time.

I never knew that one. That’s a good difference. By telling it in that first person present, is it engaging people more?

It’s like a movie that I’m listening to dialogue. I can see myself. John said, then Michael said. It’s a story within a story. I’m telling you the story of my conversation with Michael and then I’m taking you into the story that Michael had with his coach, all in the present tense. That’s the fun part of when you get great at storytelling, you can do multiple stories within stories.

I have two questions to ask you before we wrap up and find out how people get more information about having you speak. I know that you’ve got your book and online courses so we want to find out more about that, but before we do that, what would you consider to be a shortcut? We’re talking about productivity. What’s your shortcut that you use to get ahead?

My shortcut is old-school. I was talking to a friend who was feeling overwhelmed and he said, “At the end of the day, I don’t know if I’ve accomplished anything.” I said, “It’s a common feeling, especially if we’re quarantined, everything blurs together.” My shortcut is I write down the night before three things I need to get done the next day. I then look at that list at the end of the day and just the physical checking off that box makes me feel good.

It’s dopamine. We’re feeding our self with dopamine for sure. It then helps you to focus on those three things because you decided the night before, you don’t waste any time when you get up, and you’re just on it. Is there a question that you ask yourself? What’s the result of that question for you? It could be productivity like this primary question that drives us, that we constantly ask ourselves.

I can tell you when something upsets me or someone has said or done something that is upsetting. I asked myself this question. It’s a relatively long question. Will this matter in five minutes from now, five days from now, five months from now, five years from now? The more time I put on that question to myself, “Of course not, I won’t even remember it and I’m making such a big deal out of whatever happened.” That helps me keep perspective with that question.

What’s your definition of productivity and why?

Gaining people’s trust doesn’t have to be a very long story. Click To Tweet

My definition of productivity is figuring out what I want to get done and then getting it done, and not always having it done by myself and outsourcing things that other people are great at.

We can’t do it all ourselves and we’re not the best person to do it.

I don’t do my taxes, for example, nor do I cut my hair. Things like that.

Thank you for all of your great wisdom that you’ve shared with us. I took a lot of notes so I know everybody else took a lot of value away from this as well. How do people get in touch with you? Give them the sites that they can go to and what it is that you have that you’re offering and that you’re excited about.

We’ll have a free gift for everybody. If you take out your phone and type in this number, 66866 and then type in the word “Pitch,” you’ll get a free PDF that has some of my best storytelling secrets in it. If you want to find out more about the online course where you can dig in and start becoming a better storyteller and then work with me once a week for ten weeks in a group setting, it’s at JohnLivesay.com/sales. That will take you there and if you can’t remember any of that, just Google The Pitch Whisperer and my content will show up.

Thank you so much.

Thank you, Penny.

Thank you all for being here. I know that you’ve heard these stories and you can see the impact that it had on you, how they grabbed you in, and how it would move you to take action. You can now relate on how that’s going to serve you when you put that into practice in your business. It doesn’t matter whether you have your own company or you work for a company, because you may not be a salesperson doesn’t mean that these stories aren’t important. They’re important in your relationships with your family. You want to get your kids to do something. How can you tell a story that’s going to motivate your kids? If you are able to use your stories also to help your team, to motivate your team to move forward, no matter whether you’re in sales or operations or anything.

This storytelling is a way to connect better and also collaborate with the people that you’re working with. We’re all working with someone in some capacity. Not to mention that John and I didn’t talk about this, but this could be another session that he and I have. There’s always the story that you tell yourself, and that’s also just as important as the story that you’re sharing out and what story you’ve chosen to live in and how you’re going to tell the story and write the story for your next chapter. We’ll leave that as an open loop for you to come back and perhaps John and I will take on that sometime in the future.

Important Links:

About John Livesay

TBT 122 | Telling A Story“John Livesay, aka The Pitch Whisperer, is a sales keynote speaker and shares the lessons learned from his award-winning sales career at Conde Nast. In his keynote “Better Selling Through Storytelling,” he shows companies’ sales teams how to become irresistible so they are magnetic to their ideal clients. After John speaks, the sales team becomes revenue rock stars who know how to form an emotional connection and a compelling sales story with clients. His TEDx talk: Be The Lifeguard of your own life has over 1,000,000 views. His best selling book is Better Selling Through Storytelling.
He is also the host of “The Successful Pitch” podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries and has an online course on becoming irresistible when you pitch. “

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Learning To Manage Stress With Professor Pete Alexander

TBT 120 | Stress Management


Among all the aspects of our lives that we constantly need to juggle, besides time management, learning how to deal with and even mitigate stress stands out as one of the most essential. Stress management is an important lifeline, especially for the workaholics who tend to let themselves drown in work because they’re under the impression that being busy equals success. Professor Pete Alexander is a recovering hard-driving leader with over 30 years of sales, marketing, and entrepreneurial experience. He sits down with Penny Zenker to talk about how we can implement stress management in our lives. With Pete and Penny’s help, you can reach a point where you’re empowered and constantly in control of what you’re going to do next.

Listen to the podcast here:

Learning To Manage Stress With Professor Pete Alexander

We are here to give you some perspective on how you can work smarter. Included in working smarter is reducing stress. That’s going to be the topic of this episode because if we’re stressed, we’re not showing up for our time in the best way. We have a perfect, international bestselling author and fantastic guest. Professor Peter Alexander is our guest this episode and he is a recovering hard-driving leader. With over 30 years of sales, marketing and entrepreneurial experience. Pete successfully battled the negative effects of stress head-on and developed a program that’s called LIGHTEN, that’s part of the title of his bestselling book. It’s LIGHTEN stress relief model that motivates his peers to take action in only a few minutes per day, because that’s all we’ve got. His friendly and humorous demeanor and customized approach will relate well to you, and also to his clients and really delivers incredible value. Without further ado, Peter, welcome to the show.

Penny, thank you for having me on and I appreciate the time of your readers.

This is such an important time to talk about stress. We’re in the midst of the pandemic. Some states are going to “open up” and some already technically have. Some people are really into it, staying at home, and others maybe a little bit less so, but there’s a lot of stress. No matter where people are, whether they’re sick, lost their job, they’re bored and they’ve got nothing to do because they’re waiting. Everybody’s feeling it in a different way. Before we get into a little bit about your background, what’s your take on the stress levels that people are experiencing?

It certainly depends on what the situation of the individual is, but overall, everybody’s stressed because even if our own individual particular situation is not stressed, we have family members, friends, coworkers, etc. who are also stressed. It’s hard not to let that affect us in some way. What I try and recommend to everybody out there, especially in this situation, is that we should not stress over what we can’t control. Quite frankly, this whole COVID-19 situation is something where the issue is worldwide. We can’t control the spread of the virus. What we can control is our reaction to it and how we deal with it.

The fact is we’re all control freaks. We try to control what we can control and we can’t stop focusing and putting resistance in areas that we can’t control. I want to reiterate what you’re saying and how important that is. That’s what creates stress. There are things in our circumstances that we can’t control and we’re trying to fight against it.

A great way to figure that out is to draw two circles. The first circle is what you can control. The second is what you can’t control. You list out everything in both circles. As best as you can, you only focus on what you can control. Because if you can control whatever that is in that circle, you will feel more empowered, and if you feel more empowered, you feel more in control. Stress goes way down. It doesn’t help us to split our mind share on what we can’t control because we can’t do anything about it anyway.

It’s wasted energy. I want to point out, and I’m sure you’d agree with this, isn’t there a third circle?

Is it what we would call the parking lot? Something that doesn’t apply to either two?

TBT 120 | Stress Management

Lighten Your Day: Fast, Easy and Effective Stress Relief

I would say, maybe what we can influence. Maybe you’d call that what we can control but there are things directly in our control, there are some things that we can influence and then those things that are completely outside. I point that out because some people get stuck in procrastination because they feel like, “There’s nothing that I can do to control.” It’s yes and no. There’s that gray area where you might have influence and where we could still take action and empower ourselves to move forward.

Those of us that are parents out there, if you think you can control your child, that’s beyond hope, but if you can influence them, absolutely. I tend to keep that in the controllable aspect because I can do something about it. If you can do something about it, that goes in the controllable circle. If it’s something to do with your company laying off people, that’s not something you have control over. Unless you are in the executives that are making those decisions. You have to be able to decide what you should be focusing your energy on and if you have no control over it or any influence on it. Put those aside as best as possible.

Let it go, compartmentalize it. I want to know what makes you the expert? You said recovering. Usually we become the expert because it’s an area that we have had some significant challenges.

I’ve always been a type-A personality. I’ve been driven even way back since I was a kid, but the effects of that started happening back in 2008. It was a perfect storm back then, where I had all these different responsibilities hitting me at the same time. I ended up getting diagnosed with stress-induced diabetes. The problem is I didn’t listen to my body about what stress was doing to me at that time. I kept on plowing through and burning the candle at both ends. Until ten years later, I ended up in the emergency room and then in the ICU for several days with a severe case of diabetic ketoacidosis. For those reading who don’t know what that is, my body was eating itself alive because of my stress. Here’s the crazy why I say I’m recovering, is because here I am in ICU for the first time of my life. I’ve been in the emergency room with sports-related injuries or the kids injuring themselves, but never an ICU stay. The second day I’m in the ICU, my boss at the time, sends me a text. My boss knew I was in the ER and the ICU.

He sends you a text like, “Get off your ass and get to work.”

Almost exactly. It was about 6:00 AM and you don’t get any rest in ICU because they’re always poking you. As a diabetic, they were poking me every 30 minutes to check my blood sugar. When I was admitted, I was an hour before becoming comatose, because my blood sugar had skyrocketed high and I was dehydrated. It’s because of a project that I was working on that I was pushing myself on. Finally, after two days, the numbers started coming back down where they could read my glucose numbers, and it was coming down to a nice angle. I get this text from my boss saying, “You have a webinar you need to run in two hours. What are you going to do about it?”

Surprisingly, I didn’t have my work laptop with me in the ICU, I just had my phone. I started pushing myself as much as possible to see how I could rearrange it and do something about it. At that time, the nurse who was on staff checked my blood, and it was a 90-degree angle. It started skyrocketing again. She says to me, “You realize that’s what put you in this bed in the first place?” It was finally the epiphany moment. It was like, “What am I doing to myself?” I realized that for the last, not just ten years, but I had been spending the last 30 years trading my mental and physical health for my career and other responsibilities.

I learned the hard way that if you don’t have your health, nothing else matters. For your readers who don’t believe me about that, I’ll suggest to them, think about the last time you were really sick. Whether it was the flu or something else happened to you. Did you feel like doing anything other than lying in bed? Probably not. Everything else in your life doesn’t matter, if you don’t have your health and it’s precious. We talked about health and time are our two greatest assets. With health, in some cases you can get it back, but in many cases, you can’t if you’ve gone too far.

Isn’t it true that when we’re under stress, there are a lot of people myself included, I’m not getting the same level of exercise and not in the same routine than I was? It’s because I’m sacrificing that time that I have to myself to work out to be more driven or use this time on what I think I need to do in order to make up for the business that’s lost and from the disruption. That’s a point to address because that’s what happened for you. You sacrificed your health and had this. What is a tip for people who are in that cycle of sacrificing their health so that they don’t have that wakeup call that you had?

If you feel more empowered, you also feel more in control of the situation. Click To Tweet

In terms of the process, it’s first being mindful of it. If you’re telling yourself, “I should spend 30 minutes going for a walk,” or something like that. That’s the first step. A lot of people don’t even think about that. It doesn’t even matter to them. The next thing you know, they’re in the hospital or they go for a doctor’s appointment. It’s like, “What just happened?” Being mindful of that is first listening to your body and then secondarily, if it’s a matter of getting some exercise, even in a situation like this. You block time in your calendar. That’s what you do. As if it’s a regular appointment, you block it so that your peers, your boss, or whoever it happens to do not take that time. You make sure that you prioritize that.

If you don’t prioritize your health, nobody else is going to. You have to take care of yourself. A lot of us have a hard time saying, “I’m going to take care of myself. Whether it’s physically or mentally, I need to do something for myself,” but then you feel guilty because you think, “Am I being selfish?” You have to remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there for your significant other, your job, or your kids. You have to take care of yourself first and it’s not a selfish thing to make sure that you have your health.

If you flip it and see that you’re doing it for other people. For people who don’t want to do for themselves, they can see you’re doing it for other people. As a parent, you’re going to be more patient and that’s going to make you a better parent. As a business owner or an employee, you’re going to be more creative, because you’re going to be more relaxed and have access to the space to connect different things. That is where innovation and creativity come from. We have to look at it like that. Maybe you have a tip or trick that works for you. Time blocking is key and we’re talking about take back time and being more organized and disciplined.

For me, I have to do it in the morning. It has to be my first thing and the reason is that I know myself. I know that if I don’t do it in the morning, then it won’t happen. There will be all sorts of excuses throughout the day. “I’ll do it over lunch,” and then at lunch, something else becomes more urgent or important and I’ll say, “I’ll do it at 4:00, right after work or I’ll do it after dinner.” It never happens. I know for me, I have to do it first thing when I get up and habit stack, so it’s part of my get up, brush my teeth, right after breakfast goes down and do that thing. I’ve gotten out of that habit because my kids are home and everything’s all messed up. I have to make that a routine. What is it for you? I’m sure you still struggle with that too, because you still have that inner drive.

The number one thing that I do is my morning routine, which is meditation. I know that if I don’t do my meditation, when I first get up, it’s likely that it’s going to get pushed off and if it gets pushed off, it’s not going to do me any benefit during the day. I make sure that I meditate before I look at my phone, any messages or anything like that, because as soon as you look at your phone, you’re in work mode.

Also, you’re in reactive mode. Definitely no email in the first thing and do that most important thing like you’re saying.

Being at home, another thing that is important is to think about detoxing from that technology at certain points during the day. If you’re constantly on your phone, what’s happening is that you’re not giving your mind nor your body any opportunity for a break. If you can put it aside, turn it off for an hour. Don’t be willing to not look at it. Think about what you would do if you had a long shower. You wouldn’t have your phone sitting there, unless if you have one of those waterproof holders.

Do you need that in the shower?

TBT 120 | Stress Management

Stress Management: We should not stress over something we can’t control, and the COVID-19 situation is one of these things.


I know I don’t but I know a lot of people who are not able to put down their phone. In this society that we have that we’re always on, that creates all these different stressors. You need to take a break. It’s amazing. I challenge your readers that the next time they have a call with somebody that’s important to them or let’s say they’re going to go for a walk with somebody, to turn off all alerts, texts, emails, everything and not look at anything else other than the other individual as you’re talking. You’ll be amazed at how much more present you will be in that conversation.

I know I took you away from your story. Is there anything else that you wanted to come back to around your story before we go into some of the tips in your book?

What I did after I had that epiphany moment in the hospital, thanks to that nurse, I looked at my finances and I said, “I can do this.” I decided my health wasn’t worth it. I resigned from my job. I started applying the different stress relief tools and techniques that I started finding and people were recommending. I noticed that a lot of them were working. I started seeing not only that my stress was going down, my glucose numbers and weight as a diabetic was going down, and my energy was going way up. A couple of my friends told me, “You should write a book.” I thought, “I’ll do that.” I wrote the book and I didn’t realize how popular it was going to be because it fits a perfect niche. All the other books out there were saying, “Here’s a 300-page book on meditation or a 300-page book on deep breathing or yoga or whatever.” The reality is, most of us in our day, we only have a few minutes that we can try some technique to calm us down. That’s what the book is all about. Try something.

Most people don’t have time to meditate for three hours a day?

Not at all. If I can get even five minutes, it’s great, but that’s the thing, it’s five minutes or less. What I heard most was, “I’ve got to have this important conversation,” “I’m going into this important meeting,” or “I’ve got this important presentation. I’ve got five minutes. What can I do to calm myself down?” What’s great about it is you only invest five minutes or less in trying it. If it works, fantastic, keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, try something else until you find something that works for you. That’s the key. Not every technique will work for everybody. You find what works for you and you apply it.

You’ve written the book. You’ve got this model. Why don’t you tell us what each of the letters represents so that the readers can get an idea of what’s in your book, and then we can focus on a couple of tips?

It’s LIGHTEN. That’s an acronym. The L stands for Livelihood, or your career, which is if we’re workaholics, we’re going to spend more time on our careers than just about anything else. I stand for Imagination. That’s your conscious mind. It’s 5% of your brain. It’s where your inner critic lives. For all of us who have our inner critic, the control freak, that’s where it lives. It’s quite important to make sure to handle that. The G, I call your Genius. That’s your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind is the other 95% of your brain. It’s where your memories are stored and your habits are formed.

It’s where real change happens because you have to change the unconscious mind. Your conscious mind will say, “I want to go in this direction.” If your unconscious mind is not on board, you’re going to go in the direction of wherever the unconscious is, so you need to make sure to be in touch with your unconscious mind. The H stands for Health, physical health. The T is like your podcast, it’s for Time, because we only have a limited amount of time. We better use it wisely because we don’t get it back. E stands for your Environment because your environment needs to be supportive of your stress relief efforts. The N stands for your Network of relationships whether that be your friends, family, coworkers, spouse, or other people that are important to you in your life.

Is each one of those playing an important role in our physical and mental health?

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Absolutely. In the book, what I did was I organized it so that the tips fall into those different categories. Although, certain tips can fit multiple categories, but wherever it felt most common, that’s where I put it in that chapter.

I’d love to be able to go into each of those areas, but let’s focus on what’s in the time aspect. We talked a little bit about health and some of the other aspects but what are some of the tips that you have under time?

I’ve got several of them. A couple that I wanted to bring up for this is, one is setting boundaries. Because when we want to feel like we’re a good employee, volunteer, family member, or a good friend, we say yes to everything. After that, we stress over how we don’t have enough time to do what we committed to. Unfortunately, this is especially true when it happens with the person we report to when we’re working at a company. It’s easy to blame our boss, employer or clients, let’s say if we run our own businesses, or our customers for our work-life balance getting out of whack, but it’s not their fault. The reality is no matter how demanding others are or how excessive their expectations may be, we are in charge of our own lives. We choose what to accept. If we’re overworked by our employer, it’s often because we allowed it to get to that point. We didn’t put proper boundaries up.

I hear this all the time from people, they say, “That’s my boss.” “I’ll get fired if I don’t respond back to that text message at 6:30 AM.” What do you say to that?

The simple solution is to say no to certain requests that are going to suck up your time. If you find it difficult, remind yourself that saying no, allows you to say yes to the things that you truly want or need to do. For example, if it is your boss, maybe you don’t say specifically no, but you can say, “If I have to do this, here are the other things that are on my plate. Help me choose which one is going to be knocked off my list because I can’t do it all.” When you bring it up to your supervisor and say, “You have to choose which one is the priority,” then they may rethink about it and say, “This isn’t as important as this other project that you’ve got cooking. I need you to have that done first.” You help them help you.

What I always say is that sometimes they don’t remember all the things that you’re working on. They’re going to keep coming and bring in stuff. It’s up to you to ask that question, “Which is more important, this or that?” Also, to have a dialogue. I don’t know why, but it seems like people are afraid to have that dialogue, so they’re avoiding asking a question. I say the same thing. It’s important to have that dialogue.

To address your question about why they are afraid to, it’s probably because they don’t have a comfortable relationship with their supervisor and I get that. I’ve had some micro-managers who were awful. It is difficult, but when you put it into business terms, as we talked about, they are going to respond to that and they will understand that you’re only human. You’re not going to be able to do everything. If you don’t get something else that’s more important done because they pushed yet another thing on your plate, it’s going to come back to them.

Also, we don’t have that dialogue because we want to please. We want to do the best job and add incredible value. Most people are coming from a positive place. We’re doing it to ourselves. We have to play that trade-off. When you said boundaries, I want to bring up one other thing. Saying yes and no is a boundary but a lot of people have difficulty stopping work especially in this pandemic. I hear more people saying that they’re not used to working from home and they’re working longer hours. They’re not able to stop at the end of the day because there’s so much to do. Back to that environment piece. If they’re in the office, it’s a different environment, and they can leave one to come to another. How do you suggest that people deal with that boundary?

TBT 120 | Stress Management

Stress Management: Learn to say no to requests that will, at the end of the day, just suck up your time.


It’s interesting, because I hear that a ton myself. The first thing that you have to realize, especially if you’re a workaholic by nature, is that work expands. It will never get all done. There’s no finish line. You can always find more work if you look for it. What this means is your decision to stop working can’t be tied to your completion of responsibilities. You have to understand that you have to learn the inevitable. There will always be something left that has to be done and you need to be okay with that. You have to realize that there’s no guilt about not getting 1,000 things done on a certain day. You’re only human and be comfortable with stepping away from it.

Do you know a tip or technique that can help with that?

There’s one that’s called the end of day anchor. I’ll give you an example of how my wife and I do it. She works at a local hospital. You can imagine how stressed she’s been. She works odd hours, so she gets home at about 10:00 at night. I adjust my schedule so that I can spend more time with her. My end of day anchor is when I hear the garage door opening and she’s pulling into the garage. That tells me that whatever I’m working on, let’s say I’m sending an email or I’m writing something, I need to finish that up. That’s my signal. For your readers, the end of day anchor could be something like turning the computer off or turning your work phone off, whatever it is. Something simple that you get into a habit and it could be a reminder that you put in your phone that says, “At a certain time, this is the time that I need to shut down.”

It’s got to be a trigger. What came into my mind is Fred Flintstone. At the end of the day, the bird or whatever would blow the whistle and he’d be in his yabba doo mode.

“Yabba doo,” and he jumps into his car.

That’s your garage door opening and so you have to have that trigger. Whether it’s the alarm or find something else. Maybe that’s the alarm that goes off, the yabba dabba doo signal. I’m sure you can download that from the internet. It’s going to be fun too. I have some other techniques that I use too and I wasn’t thinking about that in terms of the trigger like that. That’s great.

It works well, and for those readers who are going to be back in an office, it could be locking their office doors or leaving. It could be turning off the monitor on their computer. Whatever makes sense to them. It’s all about the trigger that you’re doing mentally for yourself that you know that you’ve transitioned from work mode now to your own time.

What other tips and techniques like that do you have that people could do around their time?

I would say that one that’s a big misnomer for a lot of people is the multitasking because they feel like that they’re so busy. I’m sure we’ve all asked a particular coworker, “How are you doing?” You’ll hear them say, “I’m busy.” They’re not going to say something like, “Work is easy, and I’m on top of everything.” They’re not going to say that they’re good.

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It’s a busy competition. “You’re busy? You can’t even imagine how busy I am.”

They brag about pulling an all-nighter to finish a project because they have no time. They share that they don’t have five minutes to think during the course of their busy day. They have to eat their food at their desk because they don’t have the time to get up and have a proper meal. What it is, if you think about it, our success is not tied to how busy we are. It’s tied to how much control we have of our time, and how we choose to use it. Think about that.

I like that. That’s your definition of productivity. That’s the area that we do have control of, to go back to our control freaks. You have control of where and how we show up for our time.

Absolutely and it is your time. Remember, if you don’t use it wisely, what happens? You don’t get it back. Make sure you do. If you stop worrying about what other people are thinking about, the hours that you work and how much is on your plate, you can refocus your efforts on using the time as effectively as possible. If you do that, inevitably, this means more time for meaningful ventures and our stress will reduce as a result.

Is there a technique that helps me? I’m speaking as the audience in general and I’m conditioned to multitask, switch from task-to-task. Is there a technique that can break that pattern or stop me from doing that?

You have to teach yourself. One of the things that you can do that I find is best is let’s say you’re on a phone call and you’re checking email and stuff, especially if it’s on your cell from home, get up and start walking around. That will get you away from changing your mindset to, “I’ve got to be thinking about what’s on my computer screen, but I also have to be trying to pay attention to whatever call I’m on.” It’s a matter of saying, “I can’t do everything.” It looks good to be sitting there on the computer, especially if you’re on Zoom and you’re doing different things. It looks good because it looks like you’re busy, but the reality is you are splitting your mindshare up. Statistically this shows, there’s research that backs this up, that you are far more likely to make a mistake when you are multitasking than focusing 100% on one particular task.

What happens is when you put a whole bunch of different tasks and you’re juggling all these different things in the air, you’re more likely to make mistakes on each one of those. If you’re making mistakes, you’ve got to go back and fix those later. You might not look good to your supervisor or to your peers and you spend more time on those projects than you would if you were individually focusing your time on them. As best as you can, if it is something that needs mindshare, focus on it, get it done, and move on to the next item.

What I hear you saying is make it difficult for yourself to multitask. Put an obstacle in the way. If you get up and you’re not there on your computer, now you’re not in the environment and in a place to multitask. If you’re working on something on your computer, shut all other windows down, whatever you can do to best take away temptation.

TBT 120 | Stress Management

Stress Management: Success isn’t tied to how busy we are. It’s tied to how much control we have of our time and how we choose to use it.


What I used to do when I would be in physical conferences is I’d sit down at the conference table. We’d have X number of people around the table. I’d have my computer in case somebody asked me for something that I need to reference, but I close it. I would close it so it’s not there making any noise. The sound is off and it’s closed. I have to open it up and look for something consciously. That made me more focused. Don’t have your phone sitting there right on the table where you can see every text coming in. At least turn it over so that it’s not as distracting.

By the way, for everybody who’s reading, that’s the same in the car. As much that you want to do that while you’re sitting at your desk, you want to do it while you’re at the car. I did a test between my home and my kids’ school. I had this urge to pick up my phone eight times in this five-minute window. We have to make it difficult for ourselves and put it out of reach and make it so that we don’t have access to it.

That’s a huge safety one. The smartphones nowadays allow you to put it in driving mode, where if somebody texts you, it can automatically reply back that, “I’m driving right now, I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m not behind the wheel anymore.” For me, when I first started, I came close to texting and driving. It was an email I got from my boss and went, “I better respond to this.” I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic and you’re going slow. I came within probably 0.5 inches from rear-ending somebody because I was responding to an email that could have waited. That mode inside of me was saying, “I better respond right away.” It almost cost me huge damage to my car and to potentially hurting somebody else.

It has cost people their lives. That’s another wakeup call. Even hearing it happened to someone else. You don’t want that to be you. It’s not worth it. Let’s get people over to where they can find more about you, your book, and connect with you. Where can they go to find more about you?

The best place is to go to my website for a couple of reasons. It’s PeteAlexander.com. Not only is there information on the book and where you can buy it, but I also encourage your readers, if they like these couple minute tips. What I do is I take one of the over 100-plus tips that are in the book and each week on a Wednesday, I do a new quick video and write up on it. They can subscribe to that and get a free tip to try each week. I don’t spam people. It’s strictly for distributing those tips. I encourage them to go to my blog, and it doesn’t even ask for your name, just the email address.

That sounds great. These are super valuable what you’ve shared here. It’s simple, easy to put into practice, and at the same time, hugely impactful. Thank you for sharing them.

It’s my pleasure. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to help others because there have been too many cases where I’ve seen where people do not take their health seriously. You do not want to end up in a situation where you can’t get your health back.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for having me on, Penny. Thank you to your readers for reading this episode.

What I want you to leave here with is to think about some of the tips that we discussed here or any tips that you might already know but you’re not putting into practice. We talked about blocking your time for that time to move and take care of your health in the morning. We talked about making it difficult for yourself to do things like multitasking and things that you want to stay away from, how you can set up your environment and your things.

We also talked about setting boundaries and how to end the day when you need to with the trigger and also how to say no or how to handle over-commitment, de-committing or dealing with some of those issues. Pick one area that you feel is the most stressful for you and put in practice one of these tips or go to Pete’s blog, sign up for his newsletter and find another tip that is going to be supportive for you. You may say, “Stress, what does that have to do with take back time?” It has everything to do with taking back time. When you’re stressed, you’re wasting time and energy in places that you could be using elsewhere. Also, when you don’t have your health, then you’re also not focused on those other things that you want to do. That’s something that you have to make a priority. Make your health a priority. That was a long ending, but thank you for being here. We’ll see you in the next episode.

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About Professor Pete Alexander

TBT 120 | Stress ManagementA recovering, hard-driving leader with over 30 years of Sales, Marketing and Entrepreneurial experience, Pete successfully battled the negative effects of stress head-on and developed the LIGHTEN™ stress relief model that motivates his peers to take action in only a few minutes per day. His friendly, humorous demeanor and customized approach relates well to his clients and guarantees full value is delivered. To experience immediate stress relief for yourself, please visit Pete’s video blog series at https://petealexander.com/blog/ or his internationally best-selling book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RTZJM76

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The Central Question Of Productivity With Peter Demarest

TBT 119 | The Central Question


The truths that belie the things we do and the things we long to achieve are buried, and in order to function our best, we must seek out these truths. While it’s a tough process, it’s something that’s achievable by answering what is called “the central question.” Peter Demarest is one of the world’s leading pioneers in the science of neuro-axiology and the author of the definitive book on the science, Answering The Central Question. Peter joins Penny Zenker in a discussion on how seeking out answering the central question relates to productivity. The truth is closer than you think, so let Peter help you find your way.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Central Question Of Productivity With Peter Demarest

I’m always looking for people who are thinking and offering different solutions. I’m excited that we’re going to talk about productive thinking. It’s important to me since I did a TEDx and it’s called The Energy of Thought. I do believe that we can control and direct our thoughts, and so does our guest. He’s going to give us some scientific proof behind that and some tools and strategies for suggestion. We’re talking to Peter Demarest. Peter is one of the world’s leading pioneers in the science of neuro-axiology. That’s brain science and value science combined. He’s the author of the definitive book on the science of Answering the Central Question, which is the name of that book and it was written in 2010.

He’s also the Cofounder of Axiogenics LLC. His passion is the application of neuro-axiology to personal leadership and organizational development. He and his partners are developers of the VQ Profile Assessment System, and pedagogy for transformation called Neuro-axiological Cognitive Remodeling. Peter has been a coach and a consultant to senior executives and other leaders within global organizations, nonprofits, SMBs, and hundreds of entrepreneurs. He’s trained and mentored coaches and therapists around the world in the science and applications of neuro-axiology of the VQ Profiling and the NCRT. He’s been featured as a keynote speaker at international, national and regional conferences ranging from the International Coaching Federation, HR, Talent and Development, Organizational Development and industry-specific events.

Peter, welcome to the show.

Thank you. It’s great to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this and your gracious and wonderful invitation.

I’ve been looking forward to this too because we’re going to be talking about productive thinking and how to think smarter. I’m passionate about that aspect. It’s about The Energy of Our Thought was my TEDx and to understand how we think and how that impacts everything that we do. Before we get into that, how did you get into this? Why are you so passionate about this?

I have to take you back to 1972. I won’t show my age but I was in tenth grade and I found myself sitting outside the principal’s office. I got caught doing something I shouldn’t have been doing on school grounds. I did inhale, to give you a hint. It was tenth grade in 1972. It was a good time. I was sitting outside, waiting to go in to talk to the principal. The school secretary came in with this poster that she hung up on the wall. It turned out that it was the brand-new United Negro College Fund slogan that they had come out with. Almost everybody that’s over the age of 40 or 50 probably knows what it is because it starts with, “A mind is a horrible thing to waste.”

At that moment, I thought that was pretty funny because I inhaled and I was wasted. I sat back and thought about it later on. In fact, the principal and I had a little conversation about the mind, not relevant to the poster itself because he didn’t even know it was there. I also realized that that was peer pressure that had been doing it to start with because I wanted to belong and be cool and all that thing. I later found out that I was pretty much allergic to it any way, but that that whole idea of, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste,” stuck with me. It’s not that I pursued it as a career for the first 25 years or close to 30 years of my career but it did inform all of the things that I was doing. It was an area of curiosity and avocation of what is success? What’s the motivation? Why do people do things and make the choices they make?

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I was involved in technical education and realized there’s plenty of evidence that the field of education wasn’t putting out enough people that knew what was needed at the time in terms of computer programming. We had Y2K going on. The internet was starting to boom, and technology was changing so fast that teachers couldn’t keep up with it. If teachers couldn’t keep up with it under the instructional model of teachers’ expert, then the students weren’t learning what they needed and literally couldn’t get ahold of jobs. It dawned on me that the problem wasn’t about the learners, it was about the teaching methodology. I started to think about what we could do differently, how can we do it better, the whole concept of critical thinking and the mind. I had been exposed to this crazy thing called coaching back in the ‘90s.

TBT 119 | The Central Question

Answering The Central Question

I realized, “What if we could turn the teachers into coaches rather than experts and support them with training on how to do that and a curriculum that they could use that would enable a student, even a high school student to become certified?” At the time, Microsoft computer programming. We set out to do that and I was the head of a division of a company that did that. It was successful on a national scale and we ended up selling it back to Microsoft. At the same time, my wife was re-diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal breast cancer. It metastasized. That was a real wakeup call and I had caught the bug of the coaching industry, but I wanted something that was more objective, scientific and more than a conversation like, “What do you want to talk about?” I saw the power of a structured approach to learning and development such as what we did in the IT world. I left the corporate world to start a company and around that same time discovered the science of axiology.

People probably previewed you and looked at the science of axiology. What is that?

It comes from the Greek word axio or axia, which means worth or value. It dates back to Plato and Socrates as a philosophy and it’s the philosophy of what is good, what is bad and it gets into morals, ethics, value and valuing. In the mid-1900s, Doctor Robert Hartman, who you can also google, Robert S. Hartman, is credited with being the Father of Formal Scientific Axiology. He applied scientific methodology and mathematics. The question of what is good and what is value, then it turns out he discovered that there is a structure to how value is created and destroyed in the universe, in the world, and in our human experience. He also recognized that in human experience and in the human mind is highly subjective. It’s an interesting thing. How can you make something so intangible and seemingly subjective and turn it into something tangible and objective? That’s what Doctor Hartman did.

I remember that he did a values test.

Not values, but value. It’s called the Hartman Value Profile. Let me take one small step back, one of the things that Doctor Hartman discovered is what’s called the Hierarchy of Value. In the Hierarchy of Value, he says that there is a structure and part of that structure, for example, proves that the intrinsic value of people, the human being, is infinite. Anything with infinite value has more value than anything that isn’t of infinite value. He didn’t prove that. He also gave us an understanding of why, 60 years later, people are starting to realize that when an organization puts the intrinsic value of its people ahead of all else, you’ll see dramatic increases in performance, productivity, and engagement. In fact, Doctor Hartman pegged it at 40% on average. Organizations are a great place to work and have documented how powerful that is, although they don’t know about axiology.

In my research on applying what are the measurements that great places to work uses, it turns out, there are metrics that show that the organization operates in high alignment with the hierarchy of value. Those organizations dramatically outperform the standard, of course. There’s a lot of good data around that. What Doctor Hartman created was also an assessment called the Hartman Value Profile Assessment Instrument that helps a person where we’re able to identify what your personal value hierarchy is. We match those things up, we look at how much in alignment is your thinking, how you judge and perceive things and the meaning that you make of them. Not only the meaning but the value that you place on them compared to the objective hierarchy value. There’s an enormous amount that we can tell.

They’re weird questions. If you’ve ever taken a personality profile, and I’m going to ask you what’s the difference between the two, they’re questions that you could infer what they’re trying to get at. Therefore, there’s also a problem with that, because if you want to sway it, you can answer it any which way. I was like, “These questions are weird.” You rank them 1 to 20 or something like that. He came up with these to match them. This is my personal value based on these things and they get matched. I want to come to understand what’s the difference between a personality profile and value profile.

It’s not measuring your values as in moral and ethical values. It’s measuring how you value things. In fact, in your TEDx Talk, you were talking about the meaning that we give to words and the power of them. It’s not only the meaning that we give to words, but it’s also the value of the meaning of the words relative to us. Is that a good thing or is that a bad thing? It’s not only the definition of those words or the story that’s behind the words. It’s the meaning and the value that we give to the story that we make up about those words.

That’s what creates meaning. Let’s take an example so that people can relate. If somebody said that they couldn’t relate to me, I could interpret that in a couple of different ways. You can tell me if I’m wrong or whatever, but this is my perception. What I value will dictate which meaning I choose. I’ve got a couple of different meanings.

That’s a way to put it.

It could mean if somebody doesn’t relate to me that they say that, it could mean that they come from a different background and they have a different opinion or a different view. It could mean that I said something that put them off that they can’t relate to me. It could have a lot of different meanings. It could mean that they didn’t understand what I was saying. If I took the perspective of looking at what all it could mean, what I value is going to determine where I had with that. Is that right from the science in the way that you’re thinking?

The semantics create this unfortunate circular thing. It’s the meaning of the meaning that you gave to the meaning which could be all kinds of things. You left one out and that is that they’re an idiot for not relating to you. Some people would go that way or I’m an idiot because I can’t relate to them. I can’t figure out how to make that connection.

People go to those places. They’ll go to those and beat themselves up and say, “I must be an idiot that they can’t relate to me.” It’s important and when we’re talking about this idea of thinking productively is how we also support people that have sabotage thinking and how they address that. I want to go in that direction.

We’ll definitely get there. Back to the assessment instrument, there were questions on it. If you think about it, there were no questions on it at all. There were statements. It is the meaning-making that we give those statements and the relative value that would have a person rank them higher or lower. That’s exactly how it works and it’s been scientifically validated for 60 years or so. We at Axiogenics have a way of interpreting those results that are greatly informed by neuroscience, which is why our branch of the science is what we call Neuro-axiology. It’s informed by modern neuroscience and cognitive sciences that Doctor Hartman didn’t have back in the ‘60s and he passed away in 1973. What we’re able to measure is what we call your cognitive assets or your best ways of thinking and your cognitive biases, which become your liabilities that are those things you alluded to a little bit before, that sabotage us. When it comes back to productivity, the biggest killer of productivity is our less than good ways of thinking that we also know to dominate 85% to 95% of all of our thinking, emotions, choices, behaviors and reactions. All the time that we are of our behaviors, choices, actions, emotions and everything is dominated or dictated by even at a subconscious level, our less than best-biased ways of thinking. Which means we’re only at our best about 5% to 15% of the time. That’s it.

Finding your central question is highly valuable in comparison to something like light affirmations. Click To Tweet

That’s depressing.

Here’s the good news. If you added another 5% to 10% of that, you could double your effectiveness.

Maybe that’s when they say that we only use a part of our brain that is related to that. If we only use and we’re focused on the assets and the best parts, imagine if we got to 50%.

We’re always using significant portions. I don’t believe the old 10% thing that we used to get. What is more accurate is we’re only using the best parts of it about 10% of the time and the rest of the time, not so good. There are biological reasons for that too. The brain develops habits of mind because it takes a lot of physical energy to think consciously. A lot of our thought processes are habit driven, essentially so because if you have to think about every single little thing, you’d be exhausted. We couldn’t do that. By habituating so many things, it leaves that reserve of energy available for conscious thinking. The problem is a lot of our subconscious meaning-making also informs our conscious thinking and we don’t even know it. There have been so many and I’m sure you’ve seen some of the studies about conscious or unconscious biases.

There was this one study that was fascinating that’s why I remember it. They did a study of bringing a whole bunch of people into a conference room and they would sit them down at one end of the conference room. It was 8 to 10 people and they would have them engage in discussions about how to solve some problem. They did multiple groups and the only difference between the groups was in half the groups, they had a briefcase like a formal fashion briefcase sitting at the one end of the table. It’s only sitting there. There were no words about it, nothing. It was sitting like somebody left it there. On the other half, they had a backpack sitting at the end of the table. What they discovered was that in the rooms where it was a briefcase, the people took a much more authoritative meeting to be right, less collaborative approach than the groups where there was a backpack in the room.

It represented, essentially, how formal was the meeting going to be versus informal. People tend to be more friendly, open and collaborative in informal settings than they do informal settings. The only difference was the objects sitting in the room and the subconscious meaning that they gave to that. There have been many studies about how powerful these are. The other thing that we’ve discovered after diagnosing the thinking of tens of thousands of people is that 85 to 95% of the time is dominated by what we’re able to measure is cognitive biases that become our liabilities and that they are almost always what we call self-centric, meaning their primary focus is on, “What’s in it for me? How do I get what I want? How do I protect myself? How do I get my way? What’s in it for me?”

Everybody’s familiar with that.

Everybody is. We don’t even realize that what’s fascinating is that even things that we think are not that. It’s like, “I’m going to help this person.” When you get down to what’s motivating a person to offer help, it’s because oftentimes, their own self-esteem requires that they be helpful. They want the reward, the thank yous, and the pat on the back of the recognition. It makes somebody owe them a favor but a healthy person doesn’t need that. I didn’t say they don’t want it. They don’t need it and the need is the important thing. I need to feed the hungry in order to feel good.

Some people are filling a hole and they need that to feel whole versus it would be nice to feel good about it, recognize it or whatever.

Statistically speaking, about 83% of all coaches we’ve ever worked with have that issue.

I’m not surprised because they do say, “They teach what they need.” I do a lot of work around time management but the truth is, I’m extremely disorganized and can get all over the place. I have to put structures in place to keep me focused. It’s an adaptive thing. I’ve met a health coach who was not healthy.

I don’t want to imply that being helpful is a bad thing but there’s a dynamic that often occurs that when we need it badly, sometimes we push too hard to be helpful and it ends up backfiring and we end up not being helpful. As we put it, we end up not creating value besides our good intentions to do so.

When the focus is on you, you’re not going to serve at the highest level. The focus has to be on the other party and what they need and what their outcome is.

There are these two mindsets. The self-centric mindset, where we’re focused on our own stuff. Not necessarily selfish but it’s, “What’s in it for me?” The other is what we call the valuegenic mindset. The focus is on how do I create value? It’s not only for me but for everybody concerned, short and long-term, all things considered, and we get to choose between the two. Going back to that question or that statement, “This person isn’t relating to me.” From a self-centric standpoint, it would mean something completely different than it might mean if you’re in a valuegenic mindset where you’re focused on, “How do I create value in this moment when this other person and I aren’t connecting or relating?” How you approach that could be completely and likely would be completely different depending on which of the two mindsets you are in.

It’s because the questions we would ask would be different and the focus that we would come from would be completely different. It’s like looking at a window from one angle and what you see and looking at another angle and seeing something different. There’s a bush on one side and a tree in another house on the other side.

I realized, Penny, we got through this because you asked me how did I get into this.

That’s good. It’s developing along, so that’s perfect.

Axiology is one of my first exposures but then that whole question that I always had about the mind and that got me interested in neuroscience that people like David Rock were coming out and Science Magazine. There were so many things coming out about the brain that were showing a lot of what the so-called success gurus had bought into and were selling for decades was contrary to what science was finding out.

TBT 119 | The Central Question

The Central Question: There is a question that underlies virtually everything we do, and it’s based on the recognition that our perceptions and judgments of value are our fundamental driver.


When you say the success gurus, what’s an example that’s not of a person, but a philosophy or something that was proven by science not to be true?

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, we know from science that positive affirmations used to compensate for negative voices in our head don’t work well. They work short-term but we’ve shown it over and over again. I can show you thousands of assessments of people who have practiced that, and it did damage to their psyche long-term.

Was it in belief? That’s what I’ve always thought. If you say something, a positive affirmation and if you don’t believe it inside, it’s going to negate itself anyway. Is that where it comes from and why it’s proven?

Yes, it does negate it but if you’ve got this habitual voice in your head that says something like, “I’m not good enough or I will never be this,” that is your belief. One of the other things that have come out in neuroscience is we don’t multitask. These belief systems are deeply held.

To clarify for the people who are reading, we don’t multitask because we do a task and we shift our focus to another task. It’s more the lost time and energy that goes from shifting that’s the issue, not doing multiple things at the same time because we’re not doing that.

Sure. There is an interesting time gap. You’ve probably heard the saying, “What fires together, wires together.” Have you heard that?


The reversal is also true, what wires together, fires together because they’re wired together. The dynamic of what often happens with things like positive affirmations to compensate for negative beliefs, particularly. I’ve got this voice in my head that says, “I’m not good enough,” so we’re taught, you have to say, “I’m great. I can do this,” because you’re putting those two things into a tight, almost simultaneous thing, you’re wiring them together. The way the brain works, if you study things like neural plasticity, synaptic morphologies, and synaptic pruning, which is the younger kids, what you find out is that the brain physically wires those neurons and those neural pathways together. At some point, you might somewhat bury the negative voice in terms of maybe not hearing it as much but whenever you say the positive affirmation, subconsciously it’s also lighting up the neuron associated with, “I’m not good enough.” You may hear it so it goes, “I’m great. A little voice says. “No, you’re not. Liar, liar. Pants on fire.” It becomes like a drug that we become addicted to literally. We become dependent on this to keep ourselves going.

What’s an alternative strategy for somebody who in the past thought that was going to be a positive influence and it’s not the best way? What’s an alternative strategy that’s value-based?

Questions are how we control our own brains. When you woke up this morning, the first thing you did most likely was to ask yourself a question. What time is it? Do I have to get up? Is it daylight yet? For some people, it’s, “Who’s that next to me?” We do it thousands of times a day.

I’m a believer in that depending on the question you ask is going to shift you in completely different directions.

I want to drive the point home that we asked ourselves thousands of questions a day. Before you ask me any question in this conversation, you ask the question yourself in some form, “I wonder what he would say to this question or I wonder how that works,” and you ask the question. That’s how it moves to different parts of the brain. One of the most important questions is what we call the central question. This comes out of our research that there is a question that underlies virtually everything that we do. It’s based on the recognition that our perceptions, judgments, and value is the fundamental driver of the human spirit. You’ve never done anything in your whole life. You’ve never made a single decision or taking a single action. You made a choice in your whole life that at that moment, you didn’t think it was the right thing to do. You may discover moments later that it was a mistake. At the moment, it’s what we do. It’s virtually impossible for human beings to do anything that they aren’t able to justify as a good thing.

I’ve heard different philosophies on this, Tony Robbins talks about a primary question that we each have our own primary question that drives us and I also believe that there’s a central or universal question and that can drive it.

That’s why we call it the central question. It’s the same for every human being in one form or another. It’s this, “What choice can I make and action can I take in this moment to create the greatest net value?”

Let me tell you something, we’ve got to purposely practice that question because it’s long.

Let me address that a little bit. People will shorthand it eventually but we started out talking about meaning. You can shorthand it all you want. I certainly do, oftentimes, but it’s because I also have the fullness of its meaning engraved in my heart. If I say value, I know what that means. We purposely left the question long to cover all the bases of what it takes to answer it. Life is fundamentally about the choices that we make and the actions we take. We can only make choices and take actions in this moment, not the last moment and not the next moment. Every moment is an opportunity to make a different choice. Why would we make any choice or take any action? It goes back to the self-centric versus the valuegenic mindset. Are we going to put a for me at the end of this question to create the greatest net value for me or just to create the greatest net value?

We said net value because it’s important to note that every choice and every action does have a cost to it, even if it’s an opportunity cost because we were not multitasking. It’s important to be able to consider the pros and the cons for all people concerned, ourselves, others and both the short and long-term. Net is a little teeny word that means a great deal, and the truth is, we’d have to be all-knowing to answer it properly or accurately all the time. What we have found is that human beings are extraordinarily capable of answering the question out of their innate wisdom, higher intelligence or intuition, if you will, they possibly could know until they start to ask the question. We are so capable of answering the question, but we don’t ask it enough. That’s it.

Positive affirmations used to compensate for negative voices in our heads actually don't work very well. Click To Tweet

This is the best and most productive question that we can ask that’s going to be highly valuable in comparison to something like affirmations or something like that and that are not. For people to understand, this is a tool and a resource strategy. It’s also the title of your book, Answering the Central Question.

Which gets deep into the science. Asking the question earnestly, intentionally, not as a rhetorical question and hoping the heavens are going to open up or something. You have to think about what choice can I make and what action can I take in this moment to create the greatest net value. Let me give you an example of it. People who are needing to stay home and are telecommuting, even if they were at the office, the same thing still happens. You get bombarded by emails or a whole bunch of different things and it’s so easy to get distracted, overwhelmed and easy to figure out what’s the priority. We get into this machination, where we may even freeze and say, “I’m going to go get lunch.” “Let me get a cup of coffee because I don’t know what I’m going to do right now.” Procrastination may set in but if we take that time to ask the question here, it’s even on the back of my business card, “What choice can I make and action can I take in this moment to create the greatest net value?” Think about that and you already know the answer pretty well.

We’re just going to do what we know.

What’s important is about creating the greatest net value no for me at the end of it so you’re included in the evaluation. To think literally means to evaluate. Look at the word, it’s in the middle of evaluate. It’s the word value. That’s what thinking is, it’s evaluating things. Evaluate things in the context of how do we create value. We call it the central question of life because the success that we have in life is based upon how the quality of our choices and actions that we take. It’s the central question of love, because if a relationship doesn’t create value for both people, it’s not a good relationship. Imagine a marriage where you’re thinking about, “How can I create greater value for my significant other?”

It’s also the central question of leadership. Leadership is fundamentally about creating value and oftentimes through other people or helping other people to create value for the organization or for the mission, whatever that may be. That’s the one thing that we want to get out to 100 million people is to ask the question. You’re already so much more capable and automatically engage more of that better thinking that you can do and keep yourself, maybe add another 5% on to bringing your A-game instead of being sabotaged by the biases.

It’d be interesting, maybe you’ve done this already, to interview highly successful people and to identify what questions they ask themselves and how they’re value-oriented. One of the things, when I said I believe that there’s a universal question that we all ask. It’s like this question that you’re talking about is one that we can practice and continue to drive ourselves into one direction. I also believe that we have a universal question, that in every moment we ask ourselves and that goes back to what I said before with how I might interpret it. It’s, “What does this mean?”

We ask it all the time. We don’t realize because it’s unconscious. If we take it one step further and ask it a couple of times and say, “What else could this mean?” That for me has always been value-driven to say, which is the highest value meaning I can give this for me and for others? Can I give somebody the benefit of doubt and ask a question versus get angry at them? That’s been my practice. I didn’t even realize that that was my practice until I went to a program where they taught this idea of asking this question or any question like Byron Katie does with, “Is this true? Is this really true?” That opens up our perspective and makes those choices to our awareness. They take those choices and make them conscious. That’s one of the key things. We’re not even aware of what our choices are.

There’s one little thing I might add to that question of what does this mean, and maybe you’re doing it already. It’s the word, could. “What could this mean?” By extension, “What else could this mean?” It’s easy if we ask what does this mean and draw a conclusion. We run the risk of what we call systemic thinking is not the same as systems thinking. Systemic thinking is black and white. Once we’ve made a judgment, we think it’s the right judgment, but if we take the time to say, “What else could that mean?” Not, “What does it mean?” but, “What could it mean?” It opens us up to being able to look at it from more than one perspective to reconsider. Oftentimes, this person doesn’t relate to me. That could mean lots of different things.

In addition to that one word changes it so you’re directing the focus. It has the same impact when you ask it several times so, “What else could this mean?” Which is in the second part, but I like what you’re saying is added to the first part and there’s an implication or an inference that there are other meanings and that sparks the next question and so forth. For people who are looking to add these practices to make their choices more conscious, to be more productive in their choices and their actions and create greater net value, these are giving them some valuable tools. We could talk about this all day because this is super fun and interesting for me and for you too. What would you say for people who are reading because there was so much value here in this conversation?

This is directed to the whole audience. Think back about your life and all of your life experiences, one of the things you’re likely to discover is your best life experiences. The times that were most meaningful and impactful on you, not only joyful because sometimes those life experiences aren’t joyful. The things that formed your life in the most positive ways and the ways that you’ve been able to use in positive ways in your life are times when someone created value for you or you created value for someone else.

It is the source of some of the greatest joys in life is giving and it’s not about giving the greatest good and self-sacrificing. We are in this together, particularly at this time of this pandemic and how enormously important it is. Another part of your website talks about stress. What’s also interesting is other than physical work stress, but almost all stress, comes out of our biases. It comes out of that self-centric mindset and our perceptions of things that are wrong. They’re threatening that we’re going to lose something, we’re not going to get what we want or we’re not going to achieve what we want. It’s all this threat response is where a lot of the stress comes from.

TBT 119 | The Central Question

The Central Question: Leadership is fundamentally about creating value and helping other people create value for the organization or for the mission, whatever that may be.


When you ask yourself the central question and you move into a valuegenic mindset, you will feel the stress melt away. It helps you be more productive. It allows you to reduce the stress and use the best parts of your thinking and access more of your wisdom and innate abilities. Connect with other people, and of course, be more productive. Make better use of your time, make better choices around what your priorities are because I don’t believe we can manage time. We only manage our choices and actions relative to time or within time and space and what our priorities are.

I don’t know any other time in my lifetime that collectively been valuegenic and not been self-centric is more important for the future of the human race. Ask the question. There are other things that science allows us to do. We can measure an individual person and identify the best ways of thinking and teach them what questions to ask that will instantly have them engage their best ways of thinking without having to fake it until you make it, pretend or anything like that. “I’m a great strategic thinker,” and they’re not. We can tell you whether you are or aren’t so you can stop trying to be as much or use other ways of thinking to think more strategically. There are all kinds of cool things that teach in our self-leadership process, but it starts by asking the central question. If that’s all somebody does as a result of reading this, then we’ve done a good job.

Where can people go to find out more information about you, to get your book and check it out?

The website is Axiogenics.com. The other thing that I would invite people to do if they want to, there’s a certain limit to the number of people that I can do this with, but I would invite your readers to take the assessment and I will spend about an hour with them on the phone free of charge. It’s going through an introduction, a mini version of their report and teaching them how to access one of their best ways of thinking. In the process of that, when you access your best way of thinking, you will automatically, in a sense, disable your biases, your worst ways of thinking and it will instantly make a difference in your life. The way they do that is go to VQProfile.com/pd. Be forewarned that it is a different assessment. There are no questions on it. It’s not a personality or behavioral assessment. It’s measuring how you think, not your behavioral tendencies or even strength as in StrengthsFinder or some personality assessments. This is completely different than that.

Thank you so much. First of all, that’s a generous offer. If you’re reading, you better jump on that. I don’t know how many hours he’s going to be able to give away, so you want to be one of the first to jump on that, right after me.

One other thing, they’ll be able to set up an appointment with me on my online calendar. You have one too. After they take the assessment, there’s a button there to do it and if it fills up, which it often does, then they’ll have to stretch it out into the future.

Finding your central question is highly valuable in comparison to something like light affirmations. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much.

Thank you, Penny. It’s a real pleasure. It’s a good slice.

You guys got the central question. You’ve got what you needed and there’s more. Go and check it out with Peter on his site, VQProfile.com/pd. Thank you for being here and investing your time because what you’re learning here is going to help you in the future to take back time. That’s working smarter and being more productive with the time that you do have. We’ll see you next time.

Important Links:

About Peter Demarest

TBT 119 | The Central QuestionPeter is one of the world’s leading pioneers in the science of neuro-axiology (brain science + value science), author of the definitive book on the science, “Answering the Central Question” (2010), and co-founder of Axiogenics, LLC. His passion is the application of neuro-axiology to personal, leadership and organization development. He and his partners are the developers of the VQ Profile® Assessment system and a pedagogy for transformation called Neuro-axiological Cognitive Remodeling (NCRT).

Peter has been a coach and consultant to senior executives and other leaders within global organizations, non-profits, SMBs; and hundreds of entrepreneurs. He has trained and mentored coaches and therapists around the world in the science and applications of neuro-axiology, VQ Profiling, and NCRT. He has been a featured or keynote speaker at international, national, and regional conferences ranging from coaching (ICF), HR, TD, OD, and industry-specific events.

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How Good Communication Benefits Productivity With Steve Sims

TBT 118 | Good Communication


When people talk about time management and boosting their productivity, they often underestimate the role that communication plays in ensuring their success. Good communication, most of the time, is one of the most important aspects of the job you’re doing, and without good communication, you’re left only capable of performing half the job. Steve Sims is the bestselling author of Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen. He joins Penny Zenker to talk about how good communication serves to ultimately benefit productivity. Still not sure how exactly that works? Steve’s story can make you understand the inextricable relationship between productivity and communication.

Listen to the podcast here:

How Good Communication Benefits Productivity With Steve Sims

I am dedicating this to bring in people who will challenge you to think differently so that you can take back time and this interview is no exception. I have Steve Sims with me. He knows how to make things happen. He’s got a simple formula of two questions to ask yourself in order to make things happen. A little bit about Steve is he’s somebody who’s worked with Elton John and Elon Musk, among many other celebrities. He sent people to see the wreck of the Titanic and he’s closed museums in Florence for a private dinner party and then he had Andrea Bocelli serenade them while they ate pasta. He makes things happen. He’s been quoted as the real-life Wizard of Oz by Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine. Steve Sims is also the best-selling author of Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen. He’s a sought-after consultant and speaker and speaks at a variety of networks, groups associations, as well as the Pentagon and Harvard. Without further ado, Steve, welcome.

It’s a pleasure to be here.

I’m excited about the conversation because we’re going to be talking about the ROI of communication. Now more than ever, communication is important and it always was. It’s the key thing. We talk about productivity and saving time. It’s the biggest area. When it doesn’t run well, we’re not productive and lose trust in one another. It’s huge to be focused on proper communication.

It’s like having a car with the wheels off. If you can’t communicate, you could be an engineer with a great idea, but you can’t communicate. You could be a guy with a car trying to sell it and you can’t sell it. You can be a guy trying to chat up a girl at a bar and you can’t seal the deal. Without our ability to communicate between two human beings and it’s still the only thing that I can’t do and you can’t download an app for.

We put our focus everywhere else. Why do we do that?

We’re lazy. I hate to say this but we’re cheaters. As human beings and as exaggerated human beings, entrepreneurs, we look for the hack, trick, shortcut, secret door. What’s been given to us, we grabbed eagerly and hungrily. This word that’s in everyone’s dictionary, which is social distancing, we started that years ago with a company called Friendster and Myspace. Without realizing it, we were pushing ourselves away from people and increasing our disability to be able to communicate with each other. We rely on the fact that we’re going to go on Twitter, we’re going to go on there, “I had a great birthday.” It’s like shouting down a corridor, you hope someone opens up the door and go, “Really?” Otherwise, you’re doing lazy banner advertising. It’s hurting us.

TBT 118 | Good Communication

Bluefishing: The Art 0f Making Things Happen

There’s always a silver lining. The silver line I’ve seen in this Coronavirus is how upset we’ve been not to be able to communicate with people. There’s going to be a surge when we’re allowed out to play with each other and everyone’s going to want to go, “Let’s get together. Let’s never miss this moment again. Let’s never wait.” You’re going to get all of that. Sadly, it’s going to die off again because we have a short attention span. The Coronavirus is going to be good and impacting us into the power and necessity for two people to communicate, whether it be a business person, me to my staff, you to your kids, whatever it is, people are realizing, “I do need this communication thing.”

I have a couple of things that I can say about that. First, I see for myself, I see more communication and more time spent for that at home. That’s definitely a positive thing. Some of the challenges with anything, we have to set boundaries and we have to look at what’s productive and what’s unproductive. There’s a lot of communication that goes on in social media, in the news, it’s not real communication but people are still caught up in that. They’re at home but they’re still caught up even more so spending more time on social media, more time with news that fills our head with negativity. What about that side of things? There’s the positive end of connection and communication, but then there’s the communication that disconnects.

If you are starving and someone offered you a plate of food, would you ask what it was?

No. I would eat it.

That’s what we’re in now. We’re in a situation where we’re suddenly at home. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and he said to me, “I miss the bagel man.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I don’t know the guy’s name, I’ve made it up, but every couple of mornings I see the bagel man. We tell a joke. We laugh. We smile. He’s jolly. I miss my bagel man.” The bottom line of it is we need that communication. We’ve had it removed from us and so everyone’s jumped on a plate of food that they don’t understand. Social media, I hate to say this, isn’t social. It’s a platform. It’s a tool and it’s to be used appropriately. People go onto Facebook to connect with their family, they will avoid a phone.

It’s not connecting.

They will set up a friend group and they will go, “I’ve got a friend group so me and my family can stay in touch.” Bollocks. Pick up the phone, FaceTime them, Zoom them. My wife, as soon as this happened, she opened up a Zoom account. She uses FaceTime but now she can get her brother and sister all on Zoom and they have a conversation on a Saturday morning over breakfast. The beautiful thing is they’re in England, she hasn’t had breakfast with a family for years, but she’s using Zoom as a tool to accomplish that. Social, people are still going, “I need to communicate.” Let me yell down that corridor more and that’s where they getting it wrong. You’ve always got to ask yourself, “What’s the point?” That’s the thing we’ve got to do in everything.

The first thing I do when I coach my clients is I teach them to be selfish. I said to them, “What’s the point?” First, how does this benefit you? Second, how does it benefit someone? A lot of people are well focused on the benefit in them by saying, “I want to be common. I want to be relevant. I need more views. I need more likes.” As far as I’m concerned, I’ve never been able to pay my mortgage with Facebook likes. Until I can, it’s a waste of time to me. The point is you want to be able to communicate with another individual. The funny thing is, 9 out of 10, social platforms are the place for that to not happen, phone call, Zoom, FaceTime, all those other things.

People are desperate and they’re trying to work with what they’ve already got at their tips. They’re used to going through Facebook and cyberstalking people in their bikinis on their holidays. They’re used to doing that. It’s a comfort zone for them to go back there. Let’s be serious, Facebook is a great big voyeur platform. It’s where we can all stare at other people and then not have to be part of the conversation. Now we’re trying to use it as a conversation and that’s where we’re going wrong.

I’ve always said that what we’re doing with the likes and all of that is we’re trying to be significant. The louder we yell, the more significant we think we are. We’re seeking connection and we’re doing it in the wrong place, in the wrong ways.

You’ve got to use it as a tool. We have a Facebook group, there’s no charge, called An Entrepreneur’s Advantage. We went on there and we said, “I don’t know about you guys, but on a Friday night, I always used to like getting together with a bunch of people and drinking an old fashioned.” I can’t do that and I’m like Billy no mates, drinking on my own, “Would you like to drink an old fashioned with me on Friday night?” I used my social platform to announce what I wanted to do and then invite people to come into it. When they came into it, it wasn’t a Facebook Live, which, let’s be honest, it’s just you. I said, “Let’s do a Zoom. Would anyone be okay with that? We’ll all be able to see each other. We’ll all be able to converse. I’ll get a big screen.” We have 60-something people join us on a Friday night, which is me in my garden with an old fashioned telling as many Coronavirus jokes as possible. Seriously, they are bad. The more dad joke you could come up with, the better. I haven’t heard many funny ones yet, but that’s what we did. We used the social aspect as a tool to invite them to the visual aspect, which was Zoom.

Let’s go back to the idea of communication as an ROI. What do you mean by that? How does one get it? What’s the point?

I hate networking events because it’s a cluster show of how many business cards. If you’ve ever seen those playground things where someone jumps into a glass booth and then has to grab as many tickets as possible. You’ve seen that also with dollar bills and someone has to grab as many as they can in one minute. That’s people in a networking event. How many business cards can they get? In fact, I don’t carry business cards. I will never take your business card. I always say, “Let me get your cell phone and I’ll text you my details.” I always do that. I want to have a conversation.

Let’s get selfish here. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not getting any younger, every conversation I have has to have a benefit to me. It could be monetary. It could be access to something that’s monetary. It could be access to something that’s benefiting a client of mine, which I’ll charge him. It could be someone that’s funny at jokes that make me smile. It’s someone that’s smarter than me, which is every one, that helps me become smarter. It’s someone that may challenge me. I’ve got friends that some of them banter. You’d almost think, “Do they like each other?” I have a friend who goes, “What the bloody hell are you doing? What’s the thought process behind?” He’s not saying I can’t do it but he’s delving into the reason behind. I’ll come out of a conversation like putting in ten rounds with Mayweather, I’ll be like, “Was that a night out or was I grilled?” Everything’s going to benefit me. If I’m in a woofy conversation, “Hi. How are you? Where did you come from?” I’m gone. I’m like a two-second bailed. I’m out. I want to say, “Why are you here? How does this benefit you?”

You could be an engineer with the best idea, but if you can't communicate, there's nothing you can do. Click To Tweet

We spoke about this briefly before, when you’re focusing on the ROI, that means you’ve got to put your effort into it. I’ll use a little example as I do when I’m talking on stages. I always show people a lot of the people that I know, throwing names around, the Branson’s, the Musk’s, Elton John, all these people and I show loads of pictures of those. I say to people, “Do you know why I know all of these people? Do you know why I can text every single one of these people? It’s because I have these.” I show a picture of a sequoia tree and then everyone’s like, “Why are you showing the picture of the tree?” I then go to the next slide, which is a seed. The sequoia seed, like every other seed on the planet, is minute. The bottom line of it is that’s your relationship.

Sequoia trees are the biggest trees in the world. They’re powerful. You can cut a hole in them and a bus can drive through up in Yosemite. If someone gives you that seed, 99% of the time you’re going to ignore it. You’re going to put it on your desk, put it in your wallet, put it in your pocket. You’re going to put in many different places, which is not conducive to it growing and it will die. If you focused on it and you put it in the proper kind of soil, proper kind of water, fed it, nurtured it, pruned it as it broke soil, you protected it, stopped it getting trampled on by animals or your pets, whatever. If you put a lot of energy into that in its early stages, you’d end up with something strong and powerful. You wouldn’t have to worry about it for years to come.

There are certain friends that we know, years can pass, people from college, people from high school and you can pick back up where you left off.

You spent all the effort at the beginning because you grew. I’m going to argue that point. Sadly, a lot of people keep friends from places like high school and college and stuff like that because they are familiar. You may not like the person, but you knew him from school. People like familiarity. When I meet someone for the first time, I have to make sure for three months, I’m in that person’s face, I’m on that person’s mind if I want a relationship with him.

Let me clarify that because what you’re saying is important because there’s adding value to somebody’s life and there’s just getting in someone’s face and being maybe annoying. Is that a distinction? You’re looking to add value to somebody’s life and create a relationship that is an exchange.

If someone rewinds back in this, I said that there were two things. What’s in it for me and what’s in it for them? At this moment, in our conversation, I’m talking about what’s in it for me. I’m only on one side of the fence at the moment. If my head tells me, “I want to know that person. I want to work with that person. That person is more intellectual. That person is stimulating. That person is funny. I want to hang out with him.” If I’ve made my decision that I want that person in my world then the next decision needs to be, “What can I put in next? What can I bring to the table?”

It may be that they’re in a business that I can offer them some advice, I can offer them a solution. I can challenge them. I can tell them funny jokes. I can bring them an investor. I can bring them clients. It always starts with your decision. Think about you’re on a plane. The plane is about a takeoff. The stewardess stands up and says, “In the case of an emergency, the air mask will drop. Put it on yourself first.” That’s the same situation I’m talking about. You’ve got to be the one that makes a conscious decision, “I need to have a relationship with that person.” Once you’ve made that conscious decision, then it’s a case of, “What can I bring to the table that they’re going to be excited about?”

I said to you that I will spend three months being in front of them. I will spend the first two weeks of that relationship stalking and trying to find out what I can bring to the table. You could have been at an event. You could phone up the host and you could go, “I’m out with Mary. We had a great conversation. She mentioned something about a book or that she was starting a new bakery. Can you tell me a little bit about that?” I want to bring some value to the conversation. This isn’t just a one-time deal. If I go to a host of a party and I start that conversation, they already know how much I value relationships.

They already know that I’m not wasting my time with everyone at the party. I’m laser-focused. They already know and they’re like, “She’s got two bakeries. The first one fell apart but this one, she’s specialized in this.” You then can go back and go, “Mary, it was nice to meet you, but I’ve done a bit of stalking on you because I found you compelling and interesting.” Understand, everyone says about stalking and they go, “That’s a bit rude. That’s a bit invasive. Shut up.” The bottom line of it is we all know that if we’re going to meet someone in a couple of days’ time, we Google them. We look them up on Facebook. Everyone goes, “I don’t like that.” As you said, we do it.

You qualified it. You said, “Because I found you engaging.” I thought you were going there next and I know that this is what you’re about. It has to be authentic. There are some people who interact with me who say all these nice things and blow smoke up my butt, but I don’t feel like they mean it. I feel like they’re trying to get something from me. It’s also important that we check in with the energy that we’re showing up in and make sure that it’s genuine.

TBT 118 | Good Communication

Good Communication: When you start putting money into purchasing finery to impress people, all that stuff can actually become baggage because your real self doesn’t come out.


You’re right, 99% of the words, but you came out with one of my hated words, the word authentic. I absolutely hate that word. I do not think I’m authentic. I’m transparent. If I come to you and say, “I found you interesting and compelling that I wanted to chat with you.” I’m being transparent. You said about the people blowing smoke up your butt, they probably want something from you, we can guarantee, you’re right.

I don’t like the way they’re doing it because it’s not genuine.

If they tweaked it, everyone loves flattery. They may be good at some of the parts, but I sense the thing that they’re missing is they’re not bringing the value. If someone’s going, “You’re wonderful. You’re beautiful. I’ve got a tip on how you can make your hair glossier. I’ve got a tip on how you can be taller.” There’s an interest. A lot of people, they come along, they think, “Flatter me, that will get me everywhere.” No. People are smarter than that. We’re smarter than that because now we’re more suspicious than we’ve ever been. If you can say, continuing that, “You were engaging. I love that time together that I contacted the host and spoke to Mary about you and she told me about your two bakeries. If you don’t mind, can you tell me why the first one went pop? I want to see if there are any nuggets in there that could make the next one go through the roof.” You’re bringing some care into it. You’re bringing transparency into it because you’re asking direct questions.

I’ve gone up to celebrities, famous people, and the first way I start a conversation is, “How are you doing? My name is Steve Sims. You don’t know me.” That’s obvious, but the funny thing is it lowers the barrier because you’re stating the obvious. You’re getting the elephant out of the room. You can follow along with something like, “I’m not a stalker, but I do like the charity that you’re a part of. I came up with a couple of ideas on how we can increase the traffic to that. Would that be of interest to us to chat about?” I did that, I ended up working with Sir Elton John for about eight years. I did the exact same thing that I’m talking about.

I turned out with an opinion on how they could get more people into the event and I bought it to the table and it worked from there. That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to step up with value. We mentioned Greg Reid at the beginning of this conversation. Greg would phone me up and it was one of those challenging moments. He would phone up and he would go, “Why are you doing that, Steve?” I’d be like, “I’ll tell you.” He’s like, “That sounds great. What about your energy being here? Have you thought about this?” I can’t meet Greg without Greg turning around and go, “Are you working on this now? How did that go?” He wants to know. He cares. That’s why we have the relationship we do. That’s why you can enter into any relationship on the two understandings of, 1.) Do you want it? 2.) What’s going to make them want it?

That’s powerful and simple. What’s in it for you? What’s in it for them? Add that value. You said a lot of interesting things in and around this. We don’t know the backstory of you. What made this area of communication being and connecting with celebrities? One of the things that you do, if I remember correctly from when we met was, you make dreams come true. You organize these amazing opportunities for people and you find the obscure. Tell us more about that and how and why you decided that that was an area for you to specialize in?

Not sure I decided. It was one of these things that you have the stars aligned. It found me and drag me through the mud a few times. Like all entrepreneurs, we know more times that we don’t fit than we do fit. I remember as I was growing up, as a fifteen-year-old in England, working for my dad’s building site, I was like, “Is this it? I’ve left school early. Is this life? It’s not much fun.” In the early stages, I got into a lot of distress. I would go to work in the morning for a new job at 9:00. 2:00 in the afternoon, I’m like, “That doesn’t challenge me. I’m walking off.” I would leave. My mom was like, “You’ve got ADD.” Bear in mind, in the ‘80s and ‘90s they were giving you tablets for it. She’s like, “You’re ADD. You can’t settle.” It was a self-path. My mom thought I’m going to go to jail. “He can’t sell. His head is all over the place. He’s going to get in trouble.” I had nothing to challenge me. I had no mentors that I could look at. I had no one I could go, “I want to be that person.”

As I bounced around the walls, one of the jobs I had was a doorman. Long story short, I was in Hong Kong because I had applied for jobs in other countries. I was starting to think, “Maybe it’s the country. Maybe England got nothing.” I applied for a job in Hong Kong, it lasted one day and I got fired. I ended up working on the door and I played a game. It was weird. I played a game because no one talks to the doorman because the doorman is there to punch you in the head. Everyone is always nice as they come in. I’d have a couple of beers and get leery.

I played a game, I would stand there and I would look at how people acted with each other and how they acted with the waiters, waitresses, the bar staff, and everyone else and I would go, “I want to be that person.” Once I picked who I wanted to be, then I thought, “I wonder if I can talk to him.” Even at an early age, I knew that I’ve got to bring something to the party. As the doorman, you knew what nightclubs were going on in your area. You knew who special celebrities were turning up. You knew what special promo nights were going on.

I walked over these guys and I go, “How are you?” At first, I used to get a lot of people looking at me and go, “We’re not in trouble. Did we do something?” I’d be like, “Calm it down. You guys look you like a good time. On Thursday night, there’s a private party up the road. If it’s something of interest, you’re the kind of guy that I’m sure they would like there. If you want to go let me know and I’ll see what I can do.” It became an excuse, a reason for them to talk to me. I’m having conversations about their nightlife.

You are the combination of the people you hang around with. Click To Tweet

I went from party promoter to doing my own parties to ending up working with everyone from the Kentucky Derby, New York Fashion Week, Sir Elton John’s Oscar party, starred Polo, Formula One in Monaco. It grew from there, but it always had the same reason behind it. I wanted to be able to communicate and associate and circle with affluent, powerful people because of the classic line, “You are the combination of the people you hang around with.” All of my friends were broke-ass bikers.

If I could game to a room full of billionaires, then guess what I would end up becoming. That’s how it started. The funny thing is, this will make you giggle, it doesn’t take too many seconds to speak to me to realize that there’s nothing that I wouldn’t ask for. I’m not embarrassed about asking for what I want. I told my wife that once I built up this network, I would ask them for a job. The whole concept was that I would be asking them to help me. It never happened. I built my own industry where they needed me more than I needed them.

Were you ever feeling insecure? There’s that thing inside all of us, whether we’ve got it under control or not but there’s this thing, this deep core, we’re not enough. If you’ve ever been bullied or had a parent who put us down, from kids, this either gets bigger or we are able to keep it under control. Did you ever feel that way and feel like, “I can’t approach them?” Were you always on it and ignoring that inner feeling sometimes?

I wasn’t ignoring it, but I was ignorant to it. I didn’t recognize it. The funny thing was, from birth, I’ve been on motorcycles. I live here in Los Angeles. I don’t own a car. I haven’t owned a car for years. I’m always on motorcycles. When I lived in Asia and when I lived in Switzerland, I always had motorcycles. I would turn up to my client and I would turn up, black leather jacket and a crash helmet in my hand and start working with them. It was the thing that happened. People used to say, “When he turns up, you’re going to have to have some way for him to park his bike because he doesn’t have a car.” People are, “Really? He doesn’t drive cars.” It became my thing that they would always expect me to turn up with a crash helmet. I remember going to an event that I was asked to go to. I turned up in a car, in a taxi, an Uber thing and they went, “We wanted you to walk in with your crash helmet.” They went and borrowed a crash helmet from one of the bell staff so that I could walk in with a crash helmet, so I had the full effect.

It doesn’t mess up your hair?

Sometimes. Sometimes I think, “To hell with it.” That’s why it’s scruffy because it’s too early here. You don’t know when this little bug is going to pop out of your ears. I remember I was seven years into doing what I was doing. I had already some of the richest, most powerful people on the planet as clients. I was flying around the world, going to stately homes to see clients, heads of governments. It was crazy times. One day, I woke up and I went, “I can’t keep turning up on a motorcycle. That’s stupid.” Of course, then it happened. I bought a Ferrari. I bought tailor-made suits. I went out and I bought an expensive Audemars Piguet watch. I bought all of these things for you to be impressed with me. I didn’t buy a new Ferrari. I bought a 1971 classic. I was more of a connoisseur of vintage Ferraris. My suit had waistcoats and stuff. I was trying to impress you. The funny thing is all of this stuff was baggage. All of this stuff was weighing my shoulders down. My wife said that when I talk to people, all of a sudden, like, “Yes. Hello. How are you?”

Your real self wasn’t coming out.

Communication is the key to productivity and saving time. Click To Tweet

Everything died. I’ll give you the full story. I threw a party in Monaco, massive, great yacht, and I was with the Ferrari. I stepped out of the party and we moved the Ferrari over to the boat next to me because the boat next to me was bigger than the one that I was throwing the party on. I got my photograph taken outside of this yacht, in this Ferrari. The head of the heads on my yacht, but for some reason, even then, it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t big enough. I went back to my home. I got the photographs. It was one of those days where you took the roll of film out of your camera, you sent it off. Anywhere within the next three years, you got your pictures back. I remember sitting in my office one day. I wasn’t doing bad. I had a penthouse in Geneva and I’m flicking through these photographs of this guy trying to do his best Don Johnson, Miami Vice, leaning up against the Ferrari. I realized I wasn’t in these pictures. It wasn’t me. It was some jackass that had sold himself to try and impress you.

These people had already come to the party because they knew me. They had already paid good bucks to be there. The deal had already been done. I had shown up as someone else. I couldn’t look dumber if I turned up like some football player mascot with a big furry head on. It upset me enough that I locked the door and I went into a drinking binge for about three days. It was a dark moment in my life. I came out of it. Funny enough, we put all the suits in the closet because I thought, “It’s a suit. You never know when you need a suit.” That was in 1997. I think about 2006, before the recession, I was living in Palm Beach. We opened up one of the boxes from our place in Geneva and I found all of these suits and they went to Goodwill. They never got worn again. The watch got hocked because the watch company wouldn’t take it back. I got rid of everything and went back to who I was. I was thinking, “I will sell anything in the world that benefits you, but I will not sell me.” Thankfully, I caught that early.

I’m a strong guy. I have a strong mentality. I’m a strong character. If I want something, I’m going for it. We got a British bulldog here, and my wife says that’s my spirit animal. Whatever he wants, he goes for it. No one can ever fight against that little doubt, that little unconfidence, that little insecurity. Sometimes you’ve got to bring it out. You’ve got to sit on the other side of the table and go, “What have you got? Why should I be insecure?” I hadn’t asked those questions. I had to go through that to realize that I didn’t need to be picture perfect. I didn’t need to be wearing elegant suits. Hugh Grant was the big name at the time. I didn’t need to be Hugh Grant. I needed to be me. I could be me easily.

What would you advise people who are caught in that place? For some people, it might have been from youth. It happens for a lot of people like what happened to you. It’s not always like, early on, “What the hell?” You take all these risks and you put yourself out there and you plow through. I feel like that was the way with me as well. At some point, it crept up on me.

TBT 118 | Good Communication

Good Communication: Your fear causes you to hesitate, and all the hesitation you have will cause your worst fears to come true.


How old are you?

You can’t ask me that.

You look 33. Let’s get that out of the way. When did it come up to you? When did that doubt come in? What age?

We have a lot in common. I lived in Zurich, Switzerland and I built up an IT business. I built it up myself and hired people. I built it up to a multimillion-dollar business and sold it to a public company and it was after that. Even though in my head, I knew that I did it once, I can do it again, but there were all these expectations that I didn’t have before. All of a sudden, I have these expectations of myself and I believe others have these expectations of me. Maybe fear, those different types of feelings come up, like, “Maybe I’m not good enough.” I can’t get to the next level. It was a fluke. Imposter theory, I fell into it.

There are a lot of people that experience it also after an initial success and not only before. It’s a common thing. I know you said you went into it and you ask yourself some questions. Is there a specific question that shifted you? Do you have a great metaphor? I love your metaphors so far because they cut right to the chase in our brain too. Our brain and our conscious mind can’t block that metaphor to go right in and break up some of that BS that we’re telling ourselves.

First of all, the danger is you think if something is dedicated to the youth. You think that insecurity and instability and not knowing what’s going to go on with my life, you think that’s something you only get when you’re 17 and 18 years old. The funny thing is, in both of our examples, they both crept in during and after great success. We had already established ourselves as good, and then we had doubt. It’s weird that you get that similarity there. What you got to understand, it is there. The first thing you’ve got to do, I try to detect it when I’m working with my people, is you’ve got to be aware that it’s there. You go around the corner expecting the mode to be a little bit rough. You expect things to happen. You expect there to be a pothole when you go around a blind corner. If it’s not there, great. If it is there, you’re prepared for it.

You’ve got to understand and recognize that self-doubt is 9 out of 10 inside of us. Once you recognize it’s in there, you might not see it yet, but one day you can start preparing yourself. I went through it. It cut me to the core. It nearly ruined my relationship with my wife and my kids and everyone. It hurts. You can recognize it now. You can recognize the telltale signs. That is when you start questioning yourself. The trouble is, when you’re questioning yourself because of that doubt, you’re only questioning yourself on one side of the argument, “Am I good enough? Am I good looking enough? Am I smart enough? Can I do this?” The other side then needs to step up and go, “Why can’t I? Hang on a minute. It’s been working so far. It doesn’t matter about my height since I’ve already built this business.” You’ve got to start bringing the other part to the argument.

That’s a great way to look at it. I agree with that. I used to work with Tony Robbins. I was a coach for Tony Robbins. One of the methods that he uses that we would work with people all over the world is exactly that. If you’re blaming somebody, look at the other side and blame them not just for what they did to you, but what you got from it, how it changed you and made you better. You have to see all perspectives before you can take it in and decide what meaning you’re going to give it. That’s great advice.

We could talk forever. I love chatting with you. We’re going to have to bring our session to a close. You mentioned something that you played a game while you were at the door. You were playing a game. What struck me as we were talking is that at some point when it becomes too serious and we’re not gaming it anymore, playfully, joyfully working it in that way, it becomes too serious. For me, that is when the doubt crept in, when I took it too seriously, I took myself too seriously, the circumstances too seriously. I’m not saying that we should make light of everything. It’s in that perspective.

I’m going to quote something and you said that I love metaphors. My wife says that my education has come from metaphors and quips. I don’t like to read long dialogues. I love those little impactful things. We can gather impact on those quips from the strangest places. I don’t know if you’ll remember this. I was watching a movie one day. I was a young lad. In this movie, there was this famous scene and they were about to do a bank robbery. It was typical. It’s probably one of the most typical men movies, big bro kind of movies out there. On the bus, and I’ll leave it because I’m wondering how many people are reading this who’ll go, “I know that movie.”

I already know what it is.

There’s this guy called Bodhi and he turns around to Johnny Utah and he says, “Fear causes hesitation and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” I was watching this movie as a lad with what I’m thankful now is my wife. I sat down and I missed the rest of the movie because this had hit me so much that it wasn’t the fear that creates the problem, it was the hesitation. We’re in a Coronavirus pandemic at the moment. Coronavirus is not the problem because they’re fighting it. They’ve got intelligent people working it. It’s the idiots that are buying toilet rolls and clearing the shelves. The pandemic of stupidity, that is going to be the aftermath problem because you can guarantee they’re going to find a cure for this. We’re going to find a vaccine. We’re going to get over this, but we’re not going to get over stupidity.

The fear itself is never usually the problem. Funny enough, people don’t always recognize fear. You can play with fear. I ride motorcycles. I used to fight, kickboxing. When I used to step into the ring or when I’m on a motorcycle and before the green light goes, every molecule of my body is alive. I’m terrified, excited, thrilled and pumped. It’s that moment when you come alive. I’ve seen some dynamic, creative entrepreneurs because they’ve gone, “Green light is about to go, I’ve got to get ready.” I’ve noticed that people have to recognize it. The fear should never be the problem, it should be the fuel.

Insecurity isn't only for the youth. It follows you however old or successful you are. Click To Tweet

We joke about this in my family, we have to giggle about what we get away with. We’re sitting here at the moment, drinking our old fashioneds, having conversations all over the world via Zoom, closing deals, and none of that was ever taught to us at school or at college. I left school at the age of fifteen years old. I’ve lectured at Harvard twice. There were only two times I went there. I remember the first time going in there going, “This is absurd.” When they invited me back the second time, I went, “Are you serious? You want me to come back?” They were like, “Yes, we’d like to.” You’ve got to be able to have a big smirk with what you get away with. Entrepreneurs are there to challenge and to see what fun they can have along the way.

That’s a great place for us to end it. Our conversation has got into a lot of different directions and many nuggets in your wise words.

I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Thank you all for being here. If you didn’t catch it, go and read again because sometimes it’s not the first time that you read something that you catch like Steve did that one quote. I knew right as you were telling the story, the big bank robbery, I knew exactly which movie you were talking about but I’m not going to say what it is. Those of you, who are reading, let us know if you know what that movie is and we’ll keep you in suspense on that. Thank you all for being here. We’ll see you next time.

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About Steve Sims

TBT 118 | Good CommunicationDo you know anyone that’s worked with Sir Elton John or Elon Musk, sent people down to see the wreck of the Titanic on the sea bed or closed museums in Florence for a private dinner party and then had Andre Bocelli serenade them while they eat their pasta – you do now

Quoted as “The Real Life Wizard of Oz” by Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine, Steve Sims is a best selling Author with “BLUEFISHING – the art of making things happen”, sought-after consultant and a speaker at a variety of networks, groups and associations as well as the Pentagon and Harvard – twice!

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