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Planning Your Exit Strategy with Tom Gledhill

TBT 77 | Planning Your Exit Strategy


It’s key for every entrepreneur to be thinking about selling their business even when they’re just starting and growing it. Our guest for this episode is Tom Gledhill, the author of the XITpro System and the online course with the same name. Tom joins us today to share how his system is helping business owners plan their exit strategy and make their companies more sellable. He also touches on the key elements every entrepreneur should start looking at no matter what stage their business is at.

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Planning Your Exit Strategy with Tom Gledhill

We talk on this show about how to take back time and what does that mean? It means thinking more strategically so that you can get further faster so that you can compress time. Our guest is going to help you do that. His name is Tom Gledhill. He’s combined decades of his experience from building and selling his companies. He’s helping many other business owners to sell their companies so you can too. He developed XITpro System that helps business owners to make their companies more salable. Tom is the author of the XITPRO System and the online course with the same name. Tom, welcome to the show.

Thank you very much, Penny. It’s a pleasure to be here.

I’m excited to have you because I had my own technology business. I built it up from just me. I sold it to a public company when living in Switzerland. It was a French public company. I’d been through a lot of mergers and acquisitions. It’s so key for every entrepreneur when they’re growing their business to be thinking about selling it even when they’re starting it. Tell me your opinion about that.

That’s interesting that you say that because so few people do that. I happened to do that. I knew what I wanted to do. I either wanted to do an IPO, which I thought was a minimal probability, but have a larger company acquire my company and that’s exactly what happened. Most people or business owners that I’ve seen over the years, they got into their business either by accident or by necessity. There might have been laid off or terminated from their job or they might have been working for a business owner. The business owner had no family to turn the business over to. The person that was working for him was a good employee and been there for years. They give the key employee a good deal and a good way of paying for it over time. Some of them have done either one of those two. Most of them have gotten their business by accident. They don’t think about the exit.

Even people who do it purposely, they may have a big skill. They’re excited to take that skill to the marketplace. They’re the expert in what they do but not necessarily in building a business. No matter what reason you get into it, you have so many more opportunities if you think about that from the very beginning by setting it up like that.

It’s interesting that you said, “Think about it.” I had a great lawyer. He happened to be an expert at mergers and acquisitions. He had a lot of connections. We had been talking about selling my company. We were talking about another subject. He said, “How are you making out with selling your company?” I said, “John, I haven’t been thinking about it. Our cashflow was great. We’ve come out with a new product. Everybody is excited and things are going great.” He said to me, “Tom, now is the time to sell.” I had been busy with my company that I hadn’t thought about it. There’s another part to it too. I knew my company, my market and my product. I could sell my product but I knew nothing about selling my company. I didn’t know who was going to buy it. I didn’t know what they were looking for. Even though I had a lot of experience in the entrepreneurship and business world, I didn’t know a lot about selling a company with an infrastructure in any size.

Tell some of the business owners who are like, “What?” They’re just waking up to this idea. Tell them a couple of tips, one or two things that they should be thinking about now, whatever stage their business is. What are two concrete things that they should start looking at now that you also offer as part of helping them in your system?

The key thing is what are the business buyer types that would be interested in your company at your revenue level? Also, what are they looking for? Those are the two key elements because that determines everything. Who determines value in a business? It’s like anything else. The person that’s buying it is the one that determines the value.

As a business owner, if I’ve just started my business or it’s been in business for a number of years, I can go out and look for who are the potential buyers, who would be interested. How would I complement my business, complement their business and see what it is that they’d be willing to pay for it? What are some of the criteria? How would I know what somebody would be willing to pay for it? What kind of questions do I ask or look for?

First of all, you have to have some history behind your company before you think about selling it unless you have a game-changing technology. There are companies that sold before they even had one customer. People like Microsoft and Google bought them but that’s rare. You need some experience. You need to build it up. You need three or four years of experience before you start thinking about selling it.

I want to challenge you there. I disagree. The way you set up your company from the beginning, I agree with you that you might not find a buyer. However, the choices you make in growing your business and the way you do accounting, the way that you set up your processes and the way that you set up your contracts, it matters to start thinking about it upfront because they’re going to audit your business in its entirety. The more organized and structured you are, the better you’re going to prepare yourself for sale. Would you agree with that?

I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. That’s true. You ask me though about valuing a company.

TBT 77 | Planning Your Exit Strategy

Planning Your Exit Strategy: Unless you have a game-changing technology, you have to have some history behind your company before you think about selling it.


I want to make sure of that for the people who are reading because you said you don’t need to think about selling the business when you first start. I want to say from the context of finding a buyer, yes, so people reading will understand what the context of the choices and decisions you make in preparing your business. It’s still a value. Back to your point, I just provide that clarification. We’re blowing people’s minds here.

I’m glad you did because improving your company at any point in time is certainly positive. To answer your question about valuing, there are people, me included, that do business valuations. There are two things that determine the value and one is your cashflow. The other is the risk that’s presented to a potential buyer. One is directly proportional and the other is inversely proportional. Those are the two things that determine value, but to get a professional valuation, it takes a lot of time to do that. You need a lot of information. You need to analyze the company, break it down, see where the risk factors are and to see what are the buyer types looking for that may buy your company.

What are some of those risk factors, just so people can start to think about them?

I’ve developed a system to help small business owners in the revenue range of let’s say $500,000 to about $5 million. After that, you start employing professional help, but people under $5 million typically don’t have professional help. They’re running the show themselves. I’ve broken down into sixteen of what I call value drivers. These value drivers are things like the industry that you’re in, your company reputation, the products and service that you have, the competition, your personality, key personnel, systems that you have, your cashflow, growth. Those are the basic value drivers.

If you want to get a premium for your company, there are what I call the big hitter value drivers. They are scalability, the ability to grow your company with minimal capital investment. Recurring revenues, the revenues that keep coming in like maintenance contracts. They are real revenue value enhancers. You have bankability, the ability to get a loan because somebody that’s buying your company is going to need a loan. They’re going to use your company to get a loan. If your company has good bankability, that increases your value. The final one is intellectual property. Everybody has some intellectual property. You just have to look for it.

Something that’s unique. It doesn’t have to be a product. It can be a process. It can be a way you handle transactions. What you need to do is document that so that somebody looking at your company that’s thinking of acquiring it will see that documentation and that adds value also. Those are the things that people ought to be looking at. Probably the two biggest things for a small company to focus on are key employees, hire slow and fire fast. Number two is your systems and they should be documented. If you can automate as many of these systems as possible because the documentation comes with it, so the employees and the systems.

The two biggest things a small company should focus on are key employees. Hire slow and fire fast. Click To Tweet

People’s wheels are turning and they’re like, “I hadn’t even spent much time thinking about that.” The good thing is those two key things that you talked about, whether you’re selling your business or not, those are the most important things to be successful anyway. The other points that you made are important that people think about them, at least have it in the background of the big picture. You focus on those two things that are going to move you forward faster anyway. Why not think about those other things as well so that you can position yourself for sale in three to five years, let’s say?

A lot of business owners have a macho attitude that they are indispensable. The most valuable companies are those where the business owner is dispensable. Because the business owner is not involved in the day-to-day operations that allows the business owner to put his or her feet up on a desk and think about how they’re going to grow the company and about innovation. If they were a lifestyle company, they can think about playing golf, going sailing or whatever. Through the years, you get business-free vacations. You don’t get people hassling you while you’re on vacation. I had that situation in my last company. I would call in to see how things were going on and my administrative assistant was saying, “What do you want? Why are you calling? We don’t need you.” Some people might be offended by that, but that’s the way it should be because now you’re a big company. Your company is valuable.

A great point to mention here is the mindset around that. Some people get scared if their business doesn’t need them because they may want to be, not consciously but unconsciously, in control and connected to everything. It’s one of those areas where our brain tricks us because you want to create a business that doesn’t need you. That’s what success is. It’s not growing a big business that needs you everywhere. There is a mindset shift there that people unconsciously need to step into. It’s not about being needed that makes you important. It’s about not being needed.

That’s a huge problem. A lot of people have that macho attitude like, “They need me. If it weren’t for me, the company would be nothing.”

That’s what I heard you say so I wanted to highlight that for people who may not even be conscious of that connection and why they are maybe a little hesitant to delegate and to let go of some of the activities. I find one of the biggest challenges that I see with business owners is that they don’t want to let go. They say they do but they won’t take action to let go.

They don’t know what they’re going to do after the show is over. There are people dealing with that to help people. I wish I had it because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was in my late 50s when I sold my company. I had long ago given up golf so what am I going to do? I have a friend came along and said, “Why don’t you join me in mergers and acquisitions?” I did and I enjoyed it and learned an awful lot in that whole process because I was looking from the other side of the equation.

TBT 77 | Planning Your Exit Strategy


New things will always open up. New and better to bring us to that next level of growth. Why is this important to you to create the system and to bring it to small businesses or you said between $500,000 and $5 million?

Primarily because they’re not even aware of the problem. The other part of it is I have done a lot of things in my career. My wife got ill a few years ago and I sold my brokerage. I got involved in writing and doing a lot of researching. When she passed, I could either grieve for the rest of my life or find a purpose. My purpose and my mission going forward is to make small businessmen and women aware of the problem that only 20% of those going to market are going to sell. A lot of them are basing their retirement getting that money. If they can’t sell their company, they won’t have access to that money that they have locked in their company for retirement or perhaps in the next adventure.

Wouldn’t that be a shame that you’ve got all that value that you created and it’s like having money in the bank that you can’t access? Knowing it’s there but being able to access it because you created a job for yourself instead of creating a business.

The other part of my mission is I’ve developed a four-step process to help small business owners fix the problem themselves. A lot of them are reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on a consultant to come in and help. What I’ve tried to do is create a system for them to do it themselves. I’ve written a book about that called the XITPRO System. I’ve also had an online course for those people that need more accountability and structure of the same name. That will allow the business owner to evaluate their company. I’ve developed a couple of tools to help them evaluate their company easily and match what the business buyer type wants with what they have and improve what the business buyer type wants. Those value drivers that I mentioned, it will find out what are those value drivers that are most important to that buyer type and improve those value drivers that buyer type wants.

That is super valuable. Everybody needs to buy that book. If you are a business owner or an entrepreneur, even thinking about starting a business, start with the mindset of saying, “I want to build it so that I can sell it.” Even if you decide not to sell it, you decided to pass it to your kids or whatever. You need to have this basis of information. Tom, I can’t even tell you how important this is that we’re opening up this thought process for people. I’m super excited about what you’ve created and what it means to them.

Thank you very much, Penny. My mission is to yell this from the rooftops and put the message out there. There are five million businesses in the United States between $500,000 and $5 million. If over 80% don’t sell, that’s a lot of businesses and that’s a lot of money. Who does it hurt? It not only hurts the business owners and their family, but it also hurts the employees because they are going to be out of a job. It hurts the community. Who likes to see a locked-up facility? It hurts the country. If you do some basic mathematics on how much money is lost, it’s over $2 trillion. There are a lot of problems here that don’t just affect the business owner.

The most valuable companies are those where the business owner is dispensable. Click To Tweet

I want to hear a little bit about some of your stories. What was the most challenging thing that happened as you were selling your business?

The problem was I didn’t know who the buyer types were. I had a good idea that it was going to be a larger company in the same industry. I didn’t know what they were looking for. We had about a two-year period before we made the decision to sell and putting the company on the market. During that time, we were thinking, “What can we do to increase the value?” We did a couple of things. We expanded geographically from New England into New York and New Jersey. That cost us a ton of money. We also developed an electronic medical record. That cost us a lot of money also. It turns out the eventual buyer already had offices in New York and New Jersey. They were not interested in that. They also had their own electronic medical record. They weren’t interested in our technology. It turns out they were interested in our customer base because they had products that we didn’t have that they could immediately sell to our customer base. When they acquired us, they not only got our revenues and profits, they got our customers that they could immediately get more revenue from by selling products that we didn’t have.

That’s a great experience that you shared because when you think it’s one thing and you invest a lot of money and effort, it didn’t change the value of your company potentially for them.

No, it didn’t. If I knew what I know now, we would have hired more salespeople in the different area and I would’ve gotten more customers. I would have saved money because I wouldn’t have spent as much money. That money that I saved would’ve dropped to the bottom line and increase my profitability and my cashflow. My value would have been higher from having more customers that they wanted and having a better cashflow. It affected my sale probably by over 20%.

It’s important for people to think about what decisions you are making now strategically. Where are you investing your time, your money and your energy, and will it make sense for the future value of your company? That’s a key question. I find something that I talk about a lot in a different context is that one of the things that business owners do not do that’s so critical is take time to step back out of their business and ask those critical questions. It’s a schedule, half a day or even if you can only make it one hour a week to step back and look at your business as a whole and see, “Are you investing in the right areas? Are you getting the results that you’re looking for? Are you attracting the right types of people for a future sale or whatever that is?” When you’re working with them, how do you get them to take that time that’s necessary away from their business so that they can think more strategically and work on their business?

A couple of things have to happen. They need to spend time on improving their business. That’s what my book and my system are all about, is making your company by improving all of these value drivers that we talked about. They’re making their company more efficient and effective. They’ll have more time to spend on their business rather than in their business. That’s the first thing they need to do. That’s going to take them some time, weekends and evenings, whenever they can find the time to start making these improvements. The first thing they have to do is find out what they need to improve. Improve those things to make their business more effective and efficient then they’ll have the time.

TBT 77 | Planning Your Exit Strategy

Planning Your Exit Strategy: The Desperate Four Ds – death, disability, divorce, and debt – can affect a need for somebody to sell their company.


That’s what we were talking about when we were talking about business-free vacations and being able to go to organization meetings, seminars and not getting panic calls from your office. You’re more dispensable. That’s the first thing they need to do. The second thing is, are they a growth company or are they a lifestyle company? There are people that are out there that are making a lot of money and they could care less about growing. If they’ve got a company working effectively like a well-oiled machine, they can go play golf, they can go sailing or whatever they want to do. If they are growth-oriented, they can do what you were suggesting, think about, “How I am going to grow this? What new products can I come out with? How can I improve the products I have? What geographic areas can I expand to easily?” You can start thinking about these things, how to grow your company.

Even if you’re a lifestyle business, take that time to reflect to say, “How can I get this so that I automate it or someone else takes it over from me and how do I free up my time?” That reflection time is going to help you one way or the other to see things to find out what area to invest that time and energy on. It’s important stuff.

The times that I walked away, when I was in brokerage, from people knowing in the first visit that I wouldn’t be able to sell their company. There were times when I took something on the margin thinking maybe I can sell it and not being able to sell it. The disappointment of these people was so sad. There were people that need to sell their company because of some external event they had no control of. We call them the desperate four Ds: death, disability, divorce and debt. Any one of these things can affect a need for somebody to sell their company. If they can’t sell their company, it affected me to a point.

Why not be ready? I know we could pick your brain for another half a day, but we’re going to have to bring this to a close for people. Perhaps we’ll bring you back and dig deeper into one of those particular areas. Thank you so much for being here.

It’s my pleasure, Penny.

Give us the URLs of where people can find you, get ahold of your book and your system.

They can get my book on Amazon. It’s called XITPRO System. The URL is XITPROS.com.

Thank you so much. For all of you reading, you need to get that book and you need to take a look at that program because that’s going to help you to step back and look at your business in a completely different way, much more strategically. It’s going to help you to grow it regardless of whether you want to sell it in the future or not. It’s going to help you to grow it or create that lifestyle that you want. At the same time, be prepared then you’d be in a position if you wanted to put it up for sale if one of those unfortunate four Ds come or if you want to retire and move on. Thank you all for being here. I’ll see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Tom Gledhill

TBT 77 | Planning Your Exit StrategyTom Gledhill is an entrepreneur, author and business broker. He combines his decades of experience from building and selling 4 of his own companies and helping many other business owners sell their companies, to develop the XITpro System to help business owners make their companies salable.

Tom is the author of the XITpro System, the valuator, and an online course of the same name. Millions of small business owners will not have the retirement that they deserve or expect. Their retirement nest egg is locked in their company and they won’t have access to it unless they can sell their company.

But the sad fact is that over 75% of small businesses that go to market don’t sell and the majority of the business owner’s net worth is in the company. Their alternative is often to shut down the business. This not only hurts the business owner and family, but also the employees, the community, and the country.


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Letting Go Of The Old And Starting Something New

TBT 76 | Starting Something New


Peter Drucker has this great quote and he says, “If you want to start something new, you have to stop doing something old.” It sounds pretty simple, but we don’t do that. Instead, we start something new and at the same time, we try to accomplish everything else that’s on our plate. Take back your time by learning how to hang up that old persona and the old beliefs you’re attached with and step into the next level of your life and your business.

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Letting Go Of The Old And Starting Something New

I want to talk about the simplicity around time management and productivity. Peter Drucker has this great quote, “If you want to start something new, you have to stop doing something old.” That seems obvious. The funny thing is we don’t do that. We start something new and at the same time, we try to accomplish everything else that’s on our plate. Often, we start many new things at the same time. Maybe you’re cursed like I am with the entrepreneur’s curse that’s like, “Squirrel, shiny penny,” new idea. Focus on that as well as all the other new things that you’re doing. Setting priorities is so important that you get clear, but you can only have a focus in one direction. That means that you have to have that one overarching goal that you’re going towards. There are sub-goals that are part of that. That’s what helps set your priorities so that you can work your way back to now and what are the next things that you need to do.

It’s critical that you step back and you see that this is still the right path, that this is still the right focus. It could be that when you examine the market or you identify a new opportunity that you decide to pivot and then to shift your focus. You can’t start multiple things at the same time and drive them forward and be successful because it will take too much time and energy as it does when we’re starting something new. You’re going to have to let go of something and de-commit in order to put your time and energy into one direction.

I wanted to share a little story about somebody that I’d been working with on a coaching basis, executive coaching. This person is taking their business to the next level. They had hit a plateau and they were ready and knew that there was so much more to be had and they wanted to get to the next level. Often, it comes back to that little quote which is, “If you want to start something new, you have to stop doing something old.” Sometimes, it’s the way we define ourselves and the way that we approach our business in the marketplace. It has to change as we get to the next level of our business because at each level, we have an identity and a belief system that comes along with that, that creates that plateau.

Setting priorities is important. You can only have a focus in one direction. Click To Tweet

In order for you to get to the next level, you’re also going to have to let go of the old so that you can move to the new. One of the processes that we were doing is we were shifting from that service provider mentality. That means that he was exchanging money for his hour. He would get an hourly rate and would be paid for that as that service provider. That’s only going to get him so far and that’s going to create a limitation in itself. With it has a whole set of beliefs as that service provider. In order to help him get to the next level, beyond the service provider, we had to break down and challenge all of those beliefs.

In a way, what we did was we hung up that old jersey. It’s like we use sometimes some football and sports analogies. Let’s say that you have a great player who’s had a great career, but the career at some point in time is going to come to an end. It’s the same with that service provider mentality for this gentleman and maybe for you as well. You get to a point where it’s time to retire that uniform, that belief system, that persona, that way of thinking, that approach to the marketplace. It’s time to hang it up so that you can bring in the new player that’s got those new set of ways of looking at the marketplace and new opportunities and innovations and partnerships that are able to happen as a result of that.

We’re talking about take back time. Imagine how much you will be able to grow individually and grow your business when you can get past that plateau. A lot of time and energy is spent banging up against that plateau. This is a way to take back your time, which is by deciding that you’re going to hang up that jersey from that old player and be ready to go to the next levels. This is something that I am working on as well in and around the speaking platforms that I’m working on and the type of speaker that I am. There’s always another level. I tell people a lot around karate that it’s the same front kick that you do when you’re a white belt and that you do when you’re a black belt, but you learn the nuances. In between, you become somebody different in the process of honing those skills and then becoming the master black belt. There’s always something that you can learn. Whatever level you’re at now, you can get to the next level. In order to do that, you have to let go of old ways of doing things and old ways of thinking.

TBT 76 | Starting Something New

Starting Something New: It’s time to hang up your old persona and old belief systems so that you can bring in the new player that’s got a new set of ways of looking at the marketplace.


That is something that I wanted to share with you and to challenge you. Get that jersey out and symbolically take a look at what that jersey represents to you. Go out and buy a jersey and put your old favorite number on it and come up with a new favorite number, a new lucky number for you. The old jersey is going to have your old one. Maybe you put the name of whatever it is or call it whatever service provider or whatever paradigm you’re looking to shift. Go ahead and put that on the jersey, have it printed and then put it in a frame and hang it up on your wall and do a ceremony to let that old persona retire. All the beliefs and all the approaches that came along with that persona get to be hung up and retired so that you can focus on the next level of what kind of opportunities and potential and different ways of looking at things can you step into when you’ve hung up that old persona.

That’s my challenge for you is to write down who was that old persona and what were some of the beliefs that were attached. What had to happen in order for you to be successful with that persona? What had to happen in order for you to spend an hour of your time or half an hour or ten minutes and so forth? What were some of the definitions and beliefs so that you can challenge them and let them go and decide that you’re going to let these go, you’re going to hang up that old persona and you’re going to look at a new way of looking at how you spend your time and energy, where you spend it, what opportunities you’re going to pursue, what types of innovation you’re going to be creating and pursuing, who you hang around with? All of those things get to be challenged and changed so that you can step into your new persona and step into the next level of your life and your business.

That’s what it is for now. I challenge you to spend some time thinking about that. I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you took away from this and who it is. Private message me or message me on Facebook or whatever. Let me know what this has meant for you to hang up that old persona and step into the new level of who you are yet to become and who you’re going to be in that level. I will see you in the next episode.


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Emi Kirschner on Take Back Time With Better Project Management: Zoho Project Management

TBT 71 | Project Management Tools, zoho project management


Project management, planning, and communications are so important to our success. They are what a lot of entrepreneurs have great challenges with that having the right tools, the right mindset, and focus is vital. Emi Kirschner is an expert in these areas. She helps creative entrepreneurs and visionary leaders build their businesses and make the impact they want to make while also doubling their revenue. In this episode, Emi gives her take on project management tools and does a technical review of Zoho Project management. Find out why she thinks it’s the number one project management tool.

What Is Zoho Project Management Software?

What does a project management software actually do?

A project management software is a full-on solution to all of your project needs. Any project involves a number of different things such as money, documents, time, resources, employees, stakeholders, clients, reports, invoices, and more. Managing all of these things manually would be almost impossible and extremely time-consuming. A project management software aims to ease the process of project management. It provides tools which take care of tracking progress, planning work items, monitoring working hours, managing schedules, generating invoices, and storing files.

Project Planning

The first thing that you should do for any project is to create a project plan. We often ignore a project plan and just get on with the work ahead. Many of us fail to realize the importance and value of a project plan in saving resources, time, etc… Using Zoho project management for your project planning needs, you will have much more time to do the work and will spend less time managing it.

Project Template

The main purpose of a project template is to keep track of all of the actions that need to be accomplished from the very start of a project until the very end of the project. Templates are essential for project managers as they can help to save money, energy, and lots of time. You can save any project on Zoho project management software and choose from a wide variety of project templates whenever you start a new project.

Time Tracking

When fulfilling a project, you need to know which projects you are working on and what type of work that you need to do so that you can easily see the actual working hours. It is important to have a simple online time tracking software where you can keep track of working hours, easily run all of the reports needed, and bill your clients accordingly. The Zoho project management software offers a time tracking functionality which streamlines the performance of a project, accurately calculates the time spent on all the different tasks, exports the timesheets information into the desired format that you want, and sends an invoice for the client to pay.


The Zoho project management software allows you to easily organize and work on files which are associated with a particular project. Version confusion, emailing files to yourself, and sorting through your inbox trying to find a crucial document from months ago is all part of the past. You will always have instant access to all of the latest file versions and you can very quickly see what other people have changed.


Team members who are globally separated need a way to easily interact with each other. The Zoho project management software solves this problem with an online interactive forum which allows people to post a topic and discuss all of the ideas around it all in one place.

Project Reports

Gantt and resource utilization charts can visually represent the progress that your team is in and can coordinate them against your pre-defined goals. It also provides a lot of comprehensive summary reports about the tasks ahead, tasks completed, files, disk usage, and milestones within the project.

Listen to the Zoho project management podcast here:

Emi Kirschner on Take Back Time With Better Project Management: Zoho Project Management

I am super excited to talk about project management, planning and communications because this is so important to our success. It is something that a lot of entrepreneurs have great challenges with, having the right tools and the right mindset and focus. I know this is going to be a great show for you. Not only that, but I have a dear friend and an amazing individual. She’s an investor, a serial entrepreneur, a coach and an international speaker. I only hang out with high achievers. Emi Kirschner is here with us. She really masterfully brings her deep intuitive abilities and her analytical sense to help creative entrepreneurs and visionary leaders to build their businesses and make the impact that they want to make while also doubling their revenue. She’s an expert in creating and implementing strategic long-term plans, increasing productivity and performance while reducing stress, increasing sales and building leadership. She also teaches young people between the seventh and twelfth grade how to write their business plans and pitch to investors. Emi, welcome to the show.

Thank you. That was the best intro. It takes two great minds to be super excited about project management.

We know it’s important. We’re going to do some technical review of Zoho Projects and other types of project management tools as well as get into some of your brainchild around that whole thinking process.

I’m excited because I’ve probably used four or five different project management tools. They are all helpful for me, works the way my head does. It’s so much easier to manage multiple projects and big projects, and some that have timeframes and some of the ongoing things that every month we’re doing a different set of tasks for.

Let’s talk about that. You’ve used a couple of different project management tools. What kind of tools have you used so that people can understand? What are some of the other tools out there?

We’ve used Asana. I think it’s called Monday but they’re using a different name now. I like Zoho better. We used Trello, which is great at least for me for simple things. My team and I, our planning is far too complex for it to manage effectively. We used Freedcamp for a while. I’m pretty sure there’s something else out there. We’ve played around and looked at a lot of different tools when we finally moved to Zoho Project management. It was through that trial and error too, “This one’s great but it doesn’t do X, Y, and Z. This one’s great, but it doesn’t work for my head.”

What were the top things that you were looking for when you were going through and trialing? Granted to those out there, you might be looking for something different. I don’t want to say you have to do it this way, but I find it fun to pick apart other people’s brains to see what’s important to you.

I’m going to also add too that there’s no good or bad here. For me, it’s about finding the thing that works for you. One, there had to be a comfort level with all of our team members. When we were looking at this, I have four people on my team, two of them were really young and it needed to be simple to use. People weren’t going to be reading instructions and watching a ton of videos on how to use this. It had to be relatively intuitive. Nothing against Asana but for me, it was more a glorified to-do list and I needed more than that. That’s what Zoho Projects does for me. It gives me an ability to manage the project and measure how we’re doing on the progress and see it in different views and different ways so that I know that we’re staying on track.

There’s some reporting on the dashboard that makes it easier. I can look at projects as a whole too, not just one project. We’ve got, at any given time, between four to ten things going on. It’s how we are doing as a whole because that’s what I’m looking at when I’m doing my monthly and quarterly planning. It’s not just this one thing. It’s not just my podcast. Are we getting all speakers in and materials and whatever else? Are we doing everything we need week-over-week, month-over-month?

That’s simplicity and being intuitive. Being able to measure progress was the second thing. Was there anything else that was important for you to make sure this tool can do for you?

We need to be able to store our documents, different graphics, different Word Docs, spreadsheets, whatever it goes with that project. A lot of project management tools do this too. I love Slack. We’re actually moving away from Slack a little bit and keeping more of the data files assigned to each project.

It gives you more structure. Is that why you’re moving away from Slack?

Yeah. When you get into the second or third revision of creating a social media graphic or anything else, it gets lost in Slack pretty easily. It’s tied into that one thing and it’s less searching.

There's no good or bad tool; it's really about finding the thing that works for you. Click To Tweet

Those are things that until you get further down with a lot of tools, you don’t see some of the challenges that could be there. That’s why we’re doing this, it’s to get people to be thinking of that ahead of time. It’s a great metaphor for anything that we do. It’s to be able to think a couple of steps ahead as to what might happen. It’s a scenario planning so that you can see how this strategy is going to pan out and what are the different ways that we might hit some challenges.

It’s nice too because the Reminder feature for Zoho Projects works the way I’m expecting it to. I’ve had things that were either difficult to set up or they didn’t send them at the time that I thought they were sending them. I get my reminders in a way that is timely for me, that makes sense for me, that I actually go and use. The biggest thing is that we use projects on the project management system far more effectively. There’s still a learning curve and things that we can do better, but I feel way more organized. I even have my personal stuff in there. There’s one project for all my personal things and we would sub-project all of those out.

You use projects and sub-projects. You break that project down into sub-projects. Would those sub-projects for you be like milestones or are they the granular sub-project or are they a cluster of milestones?

Some of them are milestones and some of them are groupings of tasks that need to be done together in order to contribute to the milestone.

We’ve got the document management on top of that, the Reminder function. Is there anything else that stands out that you said these are the reasons why Zoho project management is your number one project management tool?

This is silly, but I’m a color person and you can change some of the colors on how the data’s reported. That gives me extreme joy.

Go with joy. If it brings you joy, you should do it.

For those of you who are more creative, having some of that little stuff makes it fun. If it gives you the customized feeling, it’s helpful.

I know that Zoho and all these other programs have a free version and different paid versions. Are you using the basic functionality? Are you using the paid functionality?

We’re using paid because I need to have multiple users.

Is that the main difference between free and paid?

There are other features in there too. I don’t remember anymore. They have a really clear chart, which was always good for me too.

Do you use other Zoho Projects? I know they have other products. Do you use those and how do those integrate for you?

TBT 71 | Project Management Tools

Project Management Tools: We need to be able to store. A lot of project management tools do this.


We use Zoho Social for social media scheduling and we’re just setting up Zoho CRM. There’s some more interaction between Zoho Social and Zoho CRM where the contacts in my CRM will automatically be tied to the social media so that if people are commenting on a particular post and they’re in my CRM, that will get tagged. I’m not sure how it interacts with projects yet. We’re playing with it.

With the project side of things, do you use any other automation tools that are linked to that?

It’s standalone. I think we can tie it to Slack, but we haven’t done that. I’m sure there are some other integrations. I tend to want to always jump into like, “Let’s add all this stuff in.” I didn’t do that with projects this time. Let’s master doing this first and really get comfortable with seeing how the projects flow and what we can do to increase our performance. One, staying on deadline and two, mastering our time. That’s one of the things that was cool with this. The way I do my planning when I’m looking at a project or starting something new is to list out some of those tasks and assign them time values. I can play with that. I’m scheduling it into my calendar and you can track time and schedule time with projects too. I have a sense that it’s going to take me five hours or 30 hours or whatever and I can break that up into the weeks pretty effectively.

Within Zoho itself, you’re tracking time and scheduling time. Is it connected to your calendar?

It is not connected to my calendar. The way I set up my calendar is in the mornings, for the most part, I have what I call focused work time. That’s my time to get content creation or planning or whatever else needs to get done the work on the business piece more. Even though it’s generally a set time, that’s where I’m playing whether I’m going to work on this project and this project. Depending on where we are with which things we’re working on.

You come back and you report it in Zoho as to how much time you spend on that project?

Yeah, there’s a function where you can start the stopwatch and it will track your time for you. I don’t use that part. I think my assistant, May, because she’s tracking her time to bill me appropriately.

I want to say for people reading this, that’s huge. I would use that function if I was working with it because I think you could use it outside and in a separate tracker as well. If you’re managing all your projects there for people who don’t track their time, it’s important to get a sense of how long things take. In our mind, we think it only takes this much time when in reality, we have a warped sense of reality when it comes to time. It’s important to track that and you have your own mechanism to do that. You don’t use that timer but for people who are reading, if they’re going to engage in this, I highly recommend that they use that.

That is key because part of what I think creates overwhelm is that we do have this crazy warped sense of what we can get done and most people are still trying to fit 32 things that would normally take three months into two days. I get annoyed and frustrated and you didn’t even want to deal with anything because of that. I started like, “The only way to fix this is to acknowledge how long it takes me to do certain things.” I’ve tracked that. I have a ballpark of how long it takes to do any number of things. That way, I can budget that time in my calendar and it doesn’t mean that it’s not over by fifteen minutes or under by fifteen minutes, but it’s at least averaged out. I can then actually see what I’m doing during the day and the week and be like, “Don’t add 62 more things.” It simplifies it.

What I like to do, I don’t know if you do this, but it’s also to look at what percentage of time you’re spending in each of those categories. As an entrepreneur, we wear a lot of different hats. What percentage of the time are you spending on sales, on operations, on prospecting and marketing or social media? Whatever it is that you’re doing yourself because I find that I always had to take a step back and ask, “What percentage am I doing?” For me to reach my goals, what percentages do they need to be? By tracking your time, you can get those figures more accurately. Do you do that with percentages?

I don’t do the percentages, although now that you suggest that, I’m going to have to add that.

There you go. We’re all always learning.

I do know you want to be looking at the time you spend in what the return on investment is for each day so that you can shift and prioritize, “Is this thing going to actually get me the results to bring in more revenue?”

Know what you’re doing, what you need to get done, and be realistic with what you can accomplish in any given time. Click To Tweet

You want to focus on the right things and especially for the entrepreneurs. There are so many ways to be distracted in all of these different areas. If we don’t focus on the right things and the things that are driving revenue, we can easily find ourselves not making revenue.

Never mind forgetting to ask. You’re not even at the place to remember to ask.

Tell me, what else do we need to know about Zoho Projects?

I would say with any project management tool, plan on having a little bit of a learning curve. Even though I said it is fairly intuitive, it’s about what works for your brain and playing with it. What we did initially was we took two or three projects, put them in there, set them up and started working with them before we added everything else.

Use it to test it and see how it works for you. That’s an important thing. I want to highlight it again for our audience. They quickly take on an app and throw everything in it and it’s complicated. They haven’t thought about how they’re going to use it then all of a sudden, they’re not using it anymore because they didn’t plan it out. I love the fact that you’re saying plan on that learning curve and take time to identify how you’re going to use it and test it out and all of that. It’s so important.

It does have an app on your phone too. For me, I’ll remember something as I’m standing in the grocery store line. It’s super easy for me to add it in there instead of creating a note or something to remind myself. I think for me at least, it’s one of the best project management tools that I’ve used. I like the simplicity and the data too that it can provide. It frees up that headspace of, “What do I need to do? Where are we at?” All of those things.

What does that do for your sense of time management and everything?

It gives me a sense of freedom. I run a pretty tight schedule and I like that. That makes me happy. Some people might want to have more space in theirs and that’s totally okay. It frees up the, “Am I using my time effectively?” thought because I know what I’m doing, what we need to get done and being realistic with what we can accomplish in any given time.

Lastly, are you celebrating milestones? You said you’ve got this reporter and this tracker. I’m asking that because a lot of people don’t. A celebration is important to our momentum. It’s to step back and to see what we’ve learned and to apply what we’ve learned and also to celebrate our successes.

I can’t say that we have officially other than, “It worked.” We haven’t made it into a party or a game at this point.

It’s something to think about for you and our audience. How can you even up the energy by creating that momentum especially people like yourself, people like myself? I’m always off to the next thing. It’s always, “Next thing, done. Let’s go to the next thing.” That in itself provides some momentum, but step back and give yourself a little pat on the back. It doesn’t have to be a big party or anything, but some acknowledgment of extra celebration. I love when you go to Trader Joe’s and they ring the bell, it might be to get somebody’s attention to get something. I love that whole concept. Maybe there’s a little bell or one of those memes.

Give you a little happy dance?

Yeah, give yourself a moment and maybe you can automate that when something gets checked off that comes onto your screen and gives you a little happy dance. It’s a reminder that you’re moving forward and you’re going towards your goal.

TBT 71 | Project Management Tools

Project Management Tools: What creates overwhelm is that we have this crazy warped sense of what we can get done. Most people are trying to fit 32 things that would normally take three months into two days.


Both my assistant and I are super excited when we check stuff off the list. Even that, it’s a mini happy dance. We spend time reflecting. There’s a place where we can definitely up the ante there.

Emi, I’m sure there are people here who would love to connect with you outside of this show and hear more about what you’re doing and what you might be able to do for them. Where can they find more about you?

The best place is at TheTribeOfLeaders.com. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Emi Kirschner. I would love for people to come hang out and play with me in my Facebook community, The Tribe of Leaders.

Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom and your thought process around how you’re managing your projects.

It’s my pleasure. It’s always fun to hang out with you.

Thank you all for being here because you got some important tips about Zoho Project management, which you might not have heard about before and you might have heard about some of those other tools like Asana and Trello. Basically, from what I’m hearing, it’s a glorified task list. I know that they haven’t been working for me because I used them for a little bit and I dropped them. I’m going to check out Zoho Projects and I think you should too.

Important Links:

About Emi Kirschner

TBT 71 | Project Management ToolsInvestor, a serial entrepreneur, coach, and international speaker, Emi Kirschner, masterfully combines her deep intuitive abilities with her analytical sense to help creative entrepreneurs and visionary leaders build businesses that make an impact while doubling revenue.
She is an expert in:

  • Creating and implementing strategic, long term plans
  • increasing productivity and performance while reducing stress
  • Increasing sales by maximizing process and lead capture
  • Building leadership skills to create stronger communication among teams

Emi teaches at the Young Entrepreneur Academy where she teaches 7th-12th graders how to write a business plan and pitch to investors. She also sits on the Board of FemCity Philadelphia, one of the largest women’s business networking groups in the area. Currently, Emi lives outside of Philadelphia with her two entrepreneurial teenage boys and two dogs. A foodie and beach lover, Emi plans her extensive travel around where she will eat and can wear flip flops.


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Jari Roomer on Regaining Focus, Gaining Freedom, And Overcoming Procrastination

TBT 75 | Regaining Focus


Focus is so hard to achieve these days especially with all the distractions around. Jari Roomer, the creator of The Personal Growth Lab, shares actionable and scientifically proven self-development advice that will help you staying focused, achieve goals, become a peak performer, and live a more productive and impactful life. As he discusses his idea of freedom and how to achieve it, he gives some strategies on working smarter and using systems and routines. He also shares about the importance of aligning the two versions of yourself to overcome procrastination and emphasizes the power of reflection in improving and regaining your focus.

Listen to the podcast here:

Jari Roomer on Regaining Focus, Gaining Freedom, And Overcoming Procrastination

I love to talk to people who are likeminded and are looking to help people to work smarter and approach their time management and their productivity in the most optimal way. I’m excited to have Jari Roomer with us because he is also passionate about productivity. He talks a lot about freedom and also is a successful entrepreneur. That’s what we’re going to get into and talk to him about that. He has created a site called The Personal Growth Lab. He created that to help high achievers and ambitious individuals create a life of freedom. He does that by sharing tips and strategies on peak performance. At PGL, he shares actionable, which is important, scientifically proven self-development advice that will help you stay focused, achieve your goals, become a peak performer and live a more productive and impactful life. Without further ado, Jari, welcome.

Thank you. It’s so nice to be here.

It’s great to have you here. I know we’re going to talk about focus because it’s such a challenge for people who want to succeed that they’re constantly distracted. That shiny penny, that new idea, that bombarding with marketing. What’s your biggest thing about focus?

Focus is incredibly important. I can definitely say that nowadays, the thing I have in my workflow is focus and that was what was lacking when I was still struggling and when I was still struggling to make progress with my business. There are so many things nowadays that are pulling for our attention. It’s social media. It’s new ideas. It’s that Netflix series or Game of Thrones. The cute cat videos are a distraction and there are so many things. It’s hard to keep focused on our work, even though we know we should do our work. Even though we know it is important to get the results that we desire, but it still remains a battle for most people on a daily basis.

We beat ourselves up at the end of the day for like, “Why didn’t I focus? I knew I should’ve done that. I knew what to do, but I didn’t do what I know.”

I’ve done that myself many times.

How do you do it? How do you stay focused?

TBT 75 | Regaining Focus

Regaining Focus: One way to stay focused is realizing how often you are actually distracted.


The first thing to know is to realize how often you are distracted. I knew intuitively that I was distracted often, but I didn’t know how big this issue was. I can come up with a few interesting studies that shocked me when I found out about how bad and how easily distracted we are. A Harvard study showed that knowledge workers on average, they work in a state of semi-distraction 47% of his or her day. That’s basically half of your day spent in a state of distraction or semi-distraction. A bed alarm is already crazy.

That’s generous as well. I believe that number is even higher. It depends on who you’re polling.

That could definitely be true. Imagine even if it’s 50%, you could gain back 50% of your time. If you could finish your tasks faster, your work faster and then have more free time, more time to read books or time with loved ones or other side hustle or things you want to spend it on. That is a worry in statistic. Even to make things worse, RescueTime, which is an app which you can use to block certain websites or apps if you get distracted too much, they did research that on average, knowledge workers, they check their email 55 times per day and are instant messaging about 77 times per day. That shows you how big of an issue it is, how big of an issue distraction is for us and for our productivity.

I saw a study and I don’t remember who published the study, but they said 150 times a day, 30% of the population was checking it 55 times a day. That’s crazy. The thing that I want to talk about and address is it’s addressing the impulsivity that comes along with that distraction.

That is the whole problem because distraction is what they do in the form off checking social media or having a quick chat with a colleague for example or checking those funny cat videos. What they do is they give us a form of instant gratification because instantly we are being rewarded on a neurological level. We’re entertained or we learn something new or it’s fun to scroll through social media. Much more fun, in my case to sit and focus on writing an article for a few hours in a row. It’s on a neurological level a lot less stimulating. That’s the whole problem. Distractions are more stimulating. They’re instantly giving us a reward.

It’s a hit of dopamine. It’s neurologically making us want to do more of that.

That is the issue because our work normally has a payoff somewhere in the future. If you write an article, maybe you’re satisfied with the article and that’s a boost. That’s a positive experience, but it’s only in the future that you will receive a payoff for it. If you check social media or if you watch a funny YouTube video, it’s an immediate reward. The brain prefers those immediate rewards. There’s instant gratification. That means that if we want to stay focused on our work and do our work without getting distracted, do it in a time efficient way, then we need to eliminate distractions. We can go on and fight distractions. We can try to use our willpower to in the moment, discipline ourselves and say, “No, I shouldn’t check social media. I should go back to work.” Willpower is a finite resource. If it runs out during the day. Eventually, you’re going to lose that battle.

Distractions are more stimulating and instantly giving us rewards. Click To Tweet

Willpower is exhausted. It’s not the strongest power that we have. What are two or three tips that you use? One of them you said is to understand awareness, is to understand how often we’re distracted and get clear on that. What are some other tips and tricks on how to stay more focused?

Another one and this is probably the most important one and it’s not going to be a popular one, put your smartphone away for at least about two to three hours in your day when you’re doing your most important work. The smartphone is a distraction device. It’s an amazing technology and I love it. It can also enhance your productivity, but in most cases, especially when we’re working on our most important tasks and will only serve as a distraction. What I like to do is put it on flight mode. I like to put it out of sight or put it in my backpack or put it in another room even so that my mind also doesn’t wonder like, “Did I receive a message or what’s new on Facebook or Twitter?” It’s because my phone is away. It’s removed from my environment. All I have left is my work. It’s my laptop and, in my case, writing my articles. That is a valuable tip.

In the beginning, you might feel resistance towards that because I don’t know about you, but normally my phone would be attached through like 24/7. To remove it out of your environment, even if it’s just two or three hours in your day, that’s something that we need to get used to. It is super important. It’s probably the most effective thing you can do to protect your focus, is to put your smartphone away, put it on flight mode and put it in another room. Maybe even give it to a colleague or a friend and tell them, “I can only get my phone back in two or three hours unless there’s an emergency or something.” You have an accountability partner.

The accountability partner is important because sometimes we know what to do, we just don’t do what we know. We have to commit outside of committing to ourselves so that we can get those results. I do want to comment also on what you said is around that resistance is people have to push through that because we are addicted. If people are checking it whether it’s 55 times or 150 times, it’s too many. We’re going to go through a detox period as we’re weaning ourselves away from that and there’s going to be resistance and impulse. What are some other things that you think might help people during that period where excuses come up as to why they need to have it? How do you handle the excuses that come up when you’re in that detox period? Like, “No. Somebody important might be calling, I might lose a project,” or whatever might come up in terms of excuses?

Indeed, in the beginning, you might think, “I’m missing out. I might miss out on phone calls or messages,” but in reality, you’ll find out that you won’t miss out on that much. If you miss out on a phone call, 99% of the cases, you can simply call that person back after your hyperfocus or your deep work period is finished and there’s no problem at all. Often we made this problem bigger in our own mind. We think that the consequences of missing a phone call or missing an email, even if it’s for two hours, that’s going to be this huge problem. In reality, it’s basically never a problem because you can simply respond to that person after your important work is done. You could go about this in different ways. You can say, “I’m going to work without a smartphone for the first two hours of my day, first three hours of my day and afterwards I’m allowed to use it. Afterwards I can respond to all messages or emails or phone calls.”

What you could also do is right after your first hour of working in full focus mode, you give yourself five to ten minutes. This is not necessarily something that I advise you to do, but only if your job requires you to be present on your smartphone. What you can do after an hour of work is give yourself five to ten minutes to quickly check your messages, quickly check your emails, quickly check your phone calls to see if something important has popped up. Not every message is important so you don’t need to respond to every message, but only to the most important things and then go back for an hour or an hour and a half working in full focus mode. This is only a method that I would advise you to use if your work demands that you are always available.

It comes back to also people remembering that the benefits are bigger than the cost. The amount of clarity, speed and quality that’s going to increase for you is going to way outweigh the cost of having to call somebody back versus being available. I think that is important. Some people, maybe they do need to be available and maybe it’s a good way to ease into it. Some people don’t like to cold turkey like, “Three hours without my web phone.” That way that’s a good idea, just five or ten minutes at the end of every hour. Make your block of focus time 45 minutes. Give yourself five or ten minutes on your email and give yourself five minutes to refresh, re-energize, get some water and identify what’s in the next segment. You talk a lot about freedom in a lot of the messaging that you have and what not. What is freedom to you?

TBT 75 | Regaining Focus

Regaining Focus: Not every message is important. You don’t need to respond to every message, only to the most important things.


Freedom to me is doing whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it with whoever I want to do it. That’s pretty broad, but it’s being able to decide what projects I’m going to work on. Not having someone else impose on me what project I should work on for, that I should stay in an office from exactly 9 to 5. That’s not something that works for me. It might work for other people and I definitely respect that, but for me, freedom is being able to work, for example, wherever I want to, whenever I want to and on the topics, tasks, projects that I personally choose.

Also in the context of working smarter. In order to achieve that freedom, you have to work smarter. What does working smarter means to you?

The thing is with working smarter or in increasing your productivity, in general, most people assume that if they want to get more done or achieve certain goals is that they need to put in more hours or take on more projects.

That’s what our brain tells us. Our brains say, “Work harder.”

If you instead focus on working smarter, so applying productivity strategies and techniques, then you could basically get your work done much faster and much more efficiently. You can also say, “If tasks or projects that I’m currently pursuing, they don’t add that much value. I’m working on them, simply my impulses are to do more to work harder. What if instead I used that time and focused it on a few or maybe even one important project, one important goal, it will give me a lot more results?” I can give you a personal example. At the beginning of Personal Growth Lab when I was building the business, I thought I just have to be everywhere and have to do everything. I need to start a YouTube channel, a podcast, a blog. I want to build courses. I was working on many different things at the same time because I thought that I needed to work harder and do more in order to build a successful business. After learning more about productivity and about working smarter, I realized that by taking on so many things at the same time, I was only spreading my time, my energy and my attention too thin among those different projects. Those projects, my YouTube channel, my podcast, my blog, neither of them blew up or gotten any results because I was spreading my resources way too thin.

I decided to pick writing articles on Medium because that was the platform that was giving me the most results at that time. I dedicated most of my resources, so my energy, my time and my attention on writing on Medium. That eventually helped me to grow Personal Growth Lab to amounts that I’ve never seen before in the past few years, even though in the past I was working harder, but not necessarily working smarter. For me, working smarter is applying certain productivity techniques, productivity strategies to make sure that you’re getting better results while not necessarily putting in more hours. That to me is working smarter.

I’m hearing that one of the things is to be aware of what’s delivering results. Instead of working, is to focus on the results and quantify which tasks or strategies are getting traction and getting results. What are some other strategies that you can recommend to people about working smarter?

If you focus on working smarter then you can get your work done much faster and more efficiently. Click To Tweet

Another strategy that I would recommend is being able to catch yourself when you’re procrastinating and turning that around. Procrastination, for example, is another form of we can sit at a desk and work many hours or be there for many hours, have the perception that maybe we’re working hard but in reality, we’re still not being there fully at our work. We’re not there 100%. Still, we’re checking out those funny cat videos or scrolling through Facebook. If we are able to catch our self quickly when we’re procrastinating, and turn it around and get ourselves back to work, then we are able to work much smarter because we can finish our tasks.

We can be able to make a lot more progress in even less time than before because we no longer waste any time. It helped me a lot in getting more results. In the best, and I didn’t even realize this, but I would procrastinate so much on my work. Procrastination and distractions go hand and hand with each other. If you’re falling prey to distractions like social media, at the same time you’re procrastinating. You’re not doing the work that you know you should be doing. It’s not necessarily a strategy but more of a principle that I like to use is aligning the two versions of yourself. Have you ever heard of that principle?

I don’t know. Tell us more.

Aligning the two versions of yourself goes like this. We all have two versions of ourselves. We have a future self and this version is the one who sets goals and who dreams about how awesome and successful our future will be. This version of ourselves, the future self, also realizes the importance of hard work, of consistency and of getting the job done and doing the work that we want to do. We have our present self and the present self is the one who is responsible for sitting down and doing the work. It’s my present self, right now, that is talking to you, not my future self. The problem is that the present self prefers instant gratifications, which we already mentioned, over the long-term reward or the delayed gratification that the future self wants. What we have are the two versions of our selves clashing. The future self who wants to achieve our goals and the future self who wants to work hard, but the present self just wants that immediate craving or an immediate dopamine hit of something fun like scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. If you can align those two selves with each other, then you can overcome procrastination.

How do you do that?

How you can do that is by making the future consequences of procrastinating immediate. When we’re procrastinating, we’re not necessarily thinking about the future negative consequences. All that we’re thinking about are the Instagram posts that we’re indulging at that moment. That’s what we’re focused on. When we catch ourself procrastinating, what we need to do is is think, “What will be the negative consequences that my future self will experience if I keep on procrastinating?” Procrastination is never just once. It’s basically a repeated pattern of behavior. What will happen if because of that continuous procrastination, we won’t achieve our goals? What would that do to our career? What would that do to our finances? We’ll be earning less money because we continue to procrastinate and therefore not get the results that we want. What would it do to our health and relationships or our own self-esteem?

By envisioning right now when the present self is envisioning the pain that the future self might experience because of this procrastinated of behavior, you align both versions of the self. The present self feels the pain of procrastinating instead of the pleasure of procrastinating. All of a sudden, what I personally noticed is that you don’t even want to procrastinate anymore. You don’t even want to waste time anymore because you feel that future pain, that future failure, maybe even you feel that right now. That pain is something that can drive us to take action. It’s a powerful motivator. That is something that you can apply to work smarter, to make sure that you don’t waste any more time and that you get the job done and you do the things that you know you should be doing.

TBT 75 | Regaining Focus

Regaining Focus: The future self who wants to achieve goals and work hard, but the present self wants that immediate dopamine hit of something fun.


It makes a lot of sense in the context that we have driven 100 times more away from pain than we are towards pleasure. It’s not enough to think this will be great on the other side. It’s important to use both of those. This will be great on the other side and here are the consequences. I’m practiced in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. What that does in psychology, we’re taking that pattern of thought at the moment that is looking for the pleasure, the easy way out and interrupting it. We’re interrupting it with being aware of the consequences and the cost, so it’s allowing us to be more purposeful and deliberate as opposed to in reactive and impulsive mode. That’s an important strategy. It’s so simple but at the same time, people have difficulty accessing simple techniques like this. What do you recommend and how do you help people overcome that thing if they don’t do it?

It is all about awareness, the same thing with being distracted. When you’re aware of how big of a problem it is, that’s the first step towards change. By simply becoming aware of how often you are procrastinating and how that impacts your life because that is the most important part. If you’ve truly become aware of how procrastination impacts your life, you create the leverage to not do it anymore. Even me, I experience procrastination on a daily basis but what I do is I refer back to that principle, aligning the future self with the present self. I make sure that I realize at this moment that if I don’t take action right now and if I watch cat videos, if I do anything else that has nothing to do with my work, I’m wasting my time. What am I doing here?

I’ve got ambitious goals, I want to impact other people and you want to make this life as awesome as possible, but that is your future self-thinking. If the present self doesn’t act upon that, if the present self keeps on wasting time, it is a literal waste of your time, of your opportunities as well. If you realize that your time here is limited and opportunities are limited, that creates more drive and motivation to start doing it. That is what I would recommend. It’s aligning those two versions of yourself. Right now at this moment when you’re procrastinating, feel the future consequences, the negative future consequences of a bad time wasting and inaction.

If I might add to that, you mentioned an accountability buddy. I always think about the ways that I help myself, so they can remember, so I can create that awareness, is looking for different ways to hold myself accountable. I know I want to get a particular result and I know myself. I know that I’m going to procrastinate. I’m going to sometimes not choose deliberately. I’d put different things into place before I start so that when I have that goal, I set up my environment for success. That might be shutting off different sites or put your phone away from you so that’s not a distraction. You’re turning it on airplane mode and you’re maybe putting it in a drawer somewhere or giving it to someone. You’re tracking your time so that you’re aware of when you’re procrastinating and distractions because it makes you more aware or having a sticky up on your desk somewhere with a question that will remind you of what’s the best thing for me to focus on next or whatever. It’s those things that we put into practice and into place before we start that help us to be successful in what we’re doing and to align those two.

I love those methods that you mentioned. The powerful thing about this is that you are using your environment to work for you instead of against you. You don’t necessarily have to tap that much into your willpower and discipline because you’ve got those reminders, success reminders or notifications surrounding you and you set up these systems. I like that.

I’m a firm believer that systems support us. I know a lot of people resist systems. It sounds so structured, especially you missed your freedom and do what I want when I want. God forbid we should put in a structure or a system or somewhere you have to be, but it’s adding just enough that gives you the support so that you’ll fall back onto those and it will help you to own the things that you’ve committed to. That’s what’s going to help you with a New Year’s resolution. It’s not about changing the behavior, it’s about changing your accountability systems.

The thing is, those systems and routines, they enable freedom. I love systems and routines because of those things I can then do with my time whatever I want to do. Do you have a morning routine as well?

When you're aware of how big of a problem the distraction really is, that's the first step towards change. Click To Tweet


Without my morning routine, I notice that I’m much less focused. My actions are not in alignment with my goals. I take longer to finish my work that day. I have less freedom when I don’t follow that routine or system. I think that the two for sure, they need to go hand-in-hand with each other. If you have the right system, that enables you to have freedom in other areas of your life.

That’s a key point. If somebody like yourself who’s accomplished what he wants in his life, you’ve accomplished this sense of freedom and the recognition that these systems and routines that they create that freedom. It’s almost like an oxymoron. People understand that it’s okay in itself. It’s not overdoing it, not being obsessive with too many systems and too many routines, but some key ones like the morning routine that sets your whole day up for success, it sets your mindset for positivity, goal-directed and clarity. This has been an amazing support for people who are reading on ways that they can help themselves to be more focused. Is there anything we missed or anything that you think needs to be addressed?

I want to share one more thing that is often overlooked in the productivity world that can help people get better results. It’s the power of reflection and this day, I really didn’t produce anything but I only reflected. I took time to do nothing, just sit still with a journal and write down, “Is my current business strategy working? What are the tasks or projects that are getting the most results?” Asking myself questions like, “How could I get better results? How could I be more focused and productive? Are the projects that I’m currently working on worth my time or is my time better spent on another project and will get any more or better results?”

In our society nowadays, it’s driven by doing more and more and working hard. Every now and then, maybe it’s once a week, every Sunday, maybe it’s once a month, sit still and reflect. Think about what am I doing with my time, what results am I getting? Am I happy with what I’m doing and am I being productive, and then asking yourself, “How could I improve this? How could I be more focused on productive? What tasks, what projects can I drop because they take up my valuable resources, but don’t get me that many results?” That is something that I never wanted to believe years ago. I wanted to work. I didn’t want to sit still with a journal. Nowadays, this is something that has saved me weeks or even months of hard work.

I’m a super huge proponent of taking a step back. I’d say that that’s probably, for me, the biggest productivity enhancer is taking a step back because we can chase all the wrong things for the longest time and find ourselves like how did we get here. People now, they’re too busy to reflect and they’re too busy to connect, like connect, not just Facebook connect but connect. That reflection and connection time is so important. One last thing let people know where they can get ahold of you. What’s your biggest challenge? What’s the thing that you struggle with most?

For me, the thing I still struggle with most is waking up early. I’m going to be very honest about that. I apply many different accountabilities in other systems to get myself out of bed but it’s still a struggle for me. I could set my alarm clock and then the temptation to snooze is so big and sometimes I still lose that battle. Fortunately, I apply certain things like putting my alarm clock in an entirely different room so that I have to get out of bed and stuff to get me out of bed. It’s been a challenge for me for years and I’m still working on that.

TBT 75 | Regaining Focus

Regaining Focus: The power of reflection is often overlooked in the productivity world.


Are you familiar with Mel Robbins?

I am.

A lot of people use the five, four, three, two, one, the launch sequence to get themselves out of bed. One of the things that I do is and I’ve always been good at it, so maybe that I’m not a good example. There started to be a time where I would just stay in bed and snooze and say, “I’m tired.” For me, it comes down to my values and if I set my alarm for a specific time, that’s almost like a promise. If I’m not willing to keep that promise, I should set it for a different time. If I let my promises slip, even the smallest there, where else am I letting promises go by? It’s my integrity. When I connected to my values of integrity, I’m up because that’s who I am and if I want to connect that, then I’m like, “I have to get up because that’s what I set my alarm for.” I obviously had things I wanted to do like working out or whatever is in my morning routine and not cut that short or delay that. Try that and see if that helps you.

I love that idea. I’ll definitely try it. Thank you.

There are lots of great tips and tricks. Thank you so much. Tell people where they can get ahold of you and learn more about you and read your great articles. That’s how we connected, as I read one of your articles and liked it.

We connected through Medium. I publish about three times a week on Medium. If you go to www.Medium.com/@jariroomer, you can find me there or you can find the same blog posts on ThePersonalGrowthLab.com.

Thank you so much, Jari. It’s great to have you here.

Thank you. It was a pleasure being here.

Thank you all for being here and giving your attention and your focus, and knowing that you took away at least four valuable tips that you can use to create more focus. I’m going to highlight them one more time. First of all, is to understand what’s distracting you and get clear on how often and what’s distracting you. Create that awareness, track your time and distractions and get some clarity. We talked about setting up in your environment and using reminders and understanding the cost of procrastination so that you can align your future self and your current self. There are lots and lots of great tips. Also, an important thing that we talked about was that systems and routines are going to enable you to have freedom. What systems and routines are supporting you in your environment, but also throughout your day and to achieve your goals? What’s your morning routine? Focus on that and that’s going to make a huge difference in the focus that you see all day long. Thank you for being here.

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About Jari Roomer

TBT 75 | Regaining FocusJari Roomer created Personal Growth Lab to help high-achievers and ambitious individuals like you create a life of freedom by sharing tips and strategies on peak performance and productivity.
At PGL, Jari shares actionable and scientifically proven self-development advice that will help you stay focused, achieve your goals, become a peak performer and live a more productive & impactful life. Avoid procrastination and learn skills to avoid distractions and increase focus for the entrepreneur that wants to create free time.


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Staying Focused And Getting Things Done with Taylor Jacobson

TBT 73 | Staying Focused


A lot of people struggle with keeping their focus. The result is procrastination, unfinished business, and lack of peace of mind. Taylor Jacobson built Focusmate, a remote co-working community, where people get things done together. In today’s episode, we will learn how this works and how it throws out all levels of putting off tasks.  A trained executive coach, frustrated adventurer, and a recovering pizza addict turned holistic health aspirant, Jacob shares his greatest discovery through having focus, and more.

Listen to the podcast here:

Staying Focused And Getting Things Done with Taylor Jacobson

On this episode, I am talking about focus because we are distracted on a regular basis. I’m excited to have Taylor Jacobson with us because he is a man who’s looking to create tools to help people to be more focused. He is the startup Founder of Focusmate. He’s also a student of human potential. He’s a trained executive coach, a wannabe adventurer and a recovering pizza addict turned holistic health aspirant. Taylor, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Penny.

I’m a big fan. I have a thing called distraction quiz to help people to get more aware and heighten their awareness of how crazy distracted we are. What’s the story behind Focusmate?

A big part of this story is the first time that I started working remotely. I had been a high performer my whole life. I started working remotely in 2011. Overnight, I was no longer a high performer. In fact, I almost got fired because I was having a hard time getting things done. I did not crack the code right then. What happened is I spent a long time in a phase of shame and some depression. It was a tough part of my life. I started reading about productivity, behavioral change and even spiritual growth, whatever I could to try and figure out my own problems. That solidified my passion for this space and my decision that I wanted to make this my career somehow.

Fast forward a number of years, I was working as an executive coach. I was talking to a friend about our respective struggles with procrastination. We had this idea of how could we support each other deeply to overcome procrastination and knock out some projects we were both putting off. We had this idea of like, “Let’s get on a video call together and work side by side.” We’d be watching each other get work done. It honestly sounded silly to both of us, but we were desperate. We gave it a try. Lo and behold, it works well. He and I did it a bunch of times. Pretty quickly I realized there was probably an opportunity to provide something like this to many other people like us.

We might think of ourselves as being rational animals, but we are not at all; we are very social animals. Click To Tweet

You get a buddy to go to the gym so that you both get out the door and make it happen because it’s so easy to come up with all these excuses why you can’t go. When someone else is watching or someone else’s supporting you, you show up differently, so it makes sense.

I didn’t realize it then. Now, I look at different parts of my life. I can see how much I have used this tact everywhere. How I get through college with good grades was I would take a class because there was somebody in it that I knew was going to be a good accountability partner for me and therefore, I would get a better grade. That got me to college. How do I stay in shape? I make friends with people who are down to work out together because it gets me out there. It certainly works for me. What we’ve learned is there’s tribal psychology, which we might think of ourselves as being rational animals but we are not at all. We are very social animals. We behave differently when we’re with other people or when we commit things to other people. We can go and nerd out a little bit on why that is.

There is definitely a science behind it. I forget which book it was from Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t know if you remember this or if you’ve read this where people behave differently when they would witness an accident if somebody was around or if nobody was around.

People like to send me this stuff all the time. One of the new ones I heard is that there’s research that shows if you’re standing at the foot of a mountain, like a hiking trail by yourself versus with somebody else. If you’re with somebody, you report the mountain being something like 8% smaller or less steep. In your brain, things become easier when you’re with someone else.

I’m glad you shared that because that goes back to that social psychology. It is easier with other people because it’s more fun. It takes the seriousness and the edge off because even if it’s hard, it’s hard with somebody and that somehow makes it easier.

TBT 73 | Staying Focused

Staying Focused: We are very social animals. We behave differently when we’re with other people or when we commit things to other people.


I don’t think human beings want to do things that are easy. We want to do things with other people. It’s the tribal psychology. Much as we all love ice cream and Netflix or maybe I’m speaking for myself, those are easy and gratifying things. I don’t think we love those as much as like being our best self. We would all rather be running a marathon, building amazing companies and doing great work in the world. Those are harder things but that’s where we get dopamine from is achieving things and feeling higher status because our bodies look good. We’ve created something in the world that we’re proud of and other people can see.

Those are all status-related and status is a tribal artifact. It comes back to human beings did not get to the top of the food chain because we’re more tough than other animals. Definitely, we’re frail, fragile and hairless, weak and slow. What we have on other animals is the ability to collaborate and work together. The way we evolved is we survived because we learned how to collaborate better. Genes that made us more likely to collaborate effectively are passed down. Now, we’re hardwired to do that. The idea with Focusmate or working out with a workout buddy or any form of social accountability, peer support, peer pressure, these all tap into these things. They’re hardwired. We can’t resist them so we may as well use them to our advantage.

This is positive peer pressure when you have somebody who is supporting you to bring out your best self. It’s interesting what you said is that we don’t want to do things that are easy, we want to do things that are hard. We want to accomplish more. It’s interesting that we need and we want to have other people around to witness it, to share it and to push us to that place to be our best self. I paid for a trainer because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t show up at the gym. I have to pay somebody to be my best self. That’s why people hire us as executive coaches and whatnot. It’s interesting psychology that we want to be our best self, but we aren’t as hardwired to do it for ourselves.

We could even go a step further. It’s like we’re not wired to do it at all if we’re in isolation. All of these things that we aspire to are only meaningful because they’re shared. Here’s another one that I had heard from maybe a coach was working in the prison complex and she was saying she never understood why solitary confinement was such a big deal. You look into the psychology of it and the worst thing that you can do to a human being is isolate them.

What’s funny that came up to me when you said that is in a way, entrepreneurs who are starting their own business that doesn’t yet have a team, that’s probably their biggest struggle is they’re in solitary confinement. Having a place to go like Focusmate, I just stumbled upon it. I love it. I’m signed up. I’m going to use the platform. For new entrepreneurs, this is a gold mine to support them in bringing out their best self and staying focused because there are so many things that can distract us even our own shiny ideas.

The worst thing that you can do to a human being is isolate them. Click To Tweet

That’s why a lot of this mastermind-type of concepts have gotten popular too. When I started my first solo business, one of the first things that I did was I put together a men’s group of other entrepreneurs that I would meet with every month. I’ve joined another program called Exponential and that’s a team that we check in with each other every day. If there’s a breakdown, we’ll get on a peer coaching call. If you are an entrepreneur going on it alone, it’s super lonely. It’s super isolating. That’s demotivating also.

It’s that solitary confinement. When you said that, I was like that’s the entrepreneur. Tell me how long has this been in existence and what’s your greatest discovery through having it?

We’ve been around a couple of years. We’ve started as a little mini project on the side. I found a co-founder and we’ve raised some money now. We’re off to the races. I’ll share something that is fun, which is something we’ve worked hard at is fostering positive community. We’ve hit a tipping point with that where it’s like people are craving this place where they can come and be like euphorically positive, supportive and cheer each other on it. You have to create cultural norms that make that okay because I don’t think people are used to being that positive toward others and also receiving that positive encouragement for others. It’s inspired us to add a new component to our vision, which now I’m telling everyone that we want to build the most supportive community on Earth. That’s a discovery is like, this environment, this space resonates with people. We don’t know what the products and services so to speak that will evolve from that. I’m not even worried about that. We are starting from this, “What does it look like to provide the most support that you can get anywhere in the world? Most immersive, positive and encouraging?”

That’s a great vision to have the most supportive community on Earth. How do you match people up so that somebody is thinking, “This could be for me, but I’m not sure if it’s for me?” How does it work?

As far as the brass tacks, what Focusmate is it’s a 50-minute appointment where two users sit side by side via webcam and you can be anywhere in the world. You start each appointment by sharing with your partner what you’re committing to get done. In those 50 minutes, they share with you what they’re committing to get done. You both write that down in the chat area and you get to work. You keep each other company while you’re working. You update the chat with your progress. At the end of the 50 minutes, you check in and you reflect on how it went. You have this little moment of celebration. You’re paired with any other member of the community. What we’re working on is creating a more personalized experience where you can start to say, “I like working with this person. I’m going to give them a thumbs up and work with them more frequently or even add them to my trusted contacts and get a notification when they’re working.” Do things like have a private group for your remote company so even though you’re all distributed around the world, like now you’re hopping on a Focusmate session and getting some quality time with people on your team that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Something that we’re looking at now as well is a women’s only channel. If you feel safer hopping on with another woman, you can do that. There’s a whole myriad of ways that we are exploring personalization of the experience that gives you a little taste.

TBT 73 | Staying Focused

Staying Focused: People don’t realize how much stuff even “successful” people struggle with.


It’s going to be developing a lot with this new idea. I love it. Where can people reach you and sign up for this service?

You can go to Focusmate.com. It’s free so you have no excuse. Don’t procrastinate. I get emails from people that are like, “Two months went by and I finally stopped procrastinating and tried it. I’ve done 35 sessions in the last four days.”

That’s the thing about procrastination. I’d love to pick your brain more and perhaps we’ll do that in another session or offline. Tell us about your recovering pizza addict. How many pieces of pizza day would you eat? What’s going on there?

The inside joke here for people reading is that in my bio it says recovering pizza addict, but there’s a question mark in parentheses next to the word recovering. The jury is still out whether I’m recovering. I like pizza. I think that’s an important thing that I put in my bio just because now that I am the fancy-schmancy CEO of a company, people don’t realize how much stuff that even “successful” people struggle with. I don’t know if I consider myself successful or not but I definitely struggle a lot. Part of the work that we’re doing at Focusmate is creating this conversation where it’s totally safe and acceptable to be how you are, which is human and all of us struggle. There might be super disciplined people out there. Certainly, Instagram would have you think that there are but I am not one of them. Pizza does often find its way into my life.

We all struggle in different ways. At the very core of our existence is wanting to create meaning in our lives and meaning for others and we question whether we’re good enough. That’s the ultimate thing that every single person deals with. It may show up in different ways, in different areas of our life. Some people are maybe further along than others, but we’re all human. We’re all the same. I want to thank you so much for being here, telling us about Focusmate. I look forward to many future sessions on Focusmate.

Penny, thank you so much for having me. It was really awesome.

Thank you all for being here. We’re dedicated to you getting more focus and increasing your performance and being the best you. We’ll see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Taylor Jacobson

TBT 73 | Staying FocusedI’m a startup founder, student of human potential, trained executive coach, wannabe adventurer (ask me about cycling 🚴 coast-to-coast) and recovering (?) pizza addict turned holistic health aspirant.

My career has interwoven operating and consulting roles but I’m an entrepreneur at my core and have built four businesses from food services to social enterprise, and was employee six at Teach For India.

I believe that most global problems would get solved if everyone could do their best work. My mission is to make that happen 💪.

My startup Focusmate (www.focusmate.com) is a remote co-working community where people get things done, together. Avoid Procrastination and create momentum in getting stuff done with the support of others. Our vision is to build the most supportive community on earth 🌎.

The spark for Focusmate came from my own intense struggles, as well as my work as a coach and trainer, working with leaders at places like JPMorgan, Palantir, Betterment, Compass, Wharton, Cornell, and Yale, where I gained deep experiential knowledge of peak performance and what gets in its way. 😎

I’ve been featured in GQ, CNN, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Virgin.com, Men’s Health and more.


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Everybody Can Be A Hero with Frank Shankwitz

TBT 74 | Be A Hero


Everybody can be a hero. Even if you have no penny left in your account, giving back can simply start with just one good deed that genuinely comes from the heart. Our guest is Frank Shankwitz, the creator and founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an amazing charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. In this episode, we dive into the value of contribution in making ourselves and others happier. A public speaker, movie producer, and philanthropist, Frank recalls his motivation in creating his foundation and shares his inspirations in continuing to be involved in several not-for-profit organizations. On top of that, learn how contribution impacts our ability to be more productive and happier and healthier.

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Everybody Can Be A Hero with Frank Shankwitz

I am excited to talk about a great human being, a great leader and also talk about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart that’s around contribution. People are like, “Take back time, what does that have to do with contribution?” I believe that we’re all part of a bigger picture. When we focus outside of ourselves, that’s when we can make ourselves and others happier. We can be more fulfilled. Time is irrelevant. It doesn’t play a role that when we focus out, we bring out the best parts of ourselves and the best parts of others. We’re going to call this show, Everyone Can be a Hero, because our guest is Frank Shankwitz. He is the Founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s his tagline, “Everyone can be a hero.” Frank, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Penny. I appreciate the invitation.

Tell me about the tagline. How did you come up with that as your motto, “Everyone can be a hero?”

That all started out basically with my youth, single mother, very poor and everybody helping us out. We live in everything from our car to our tents, the original homeless people back in the ’40s and early ’50s. My mentors, my father figures, people that helped me out said, “You can be kind and help someone.” Eventually, I came up with that thought where everybody can be a hero. People started calling me a hero for starting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I reminded them that it took several people, not just me, several cofounders. We can all be heroes in somebody’s life.

It’s a perfect example, you said you changed from modest beings like you didn’t have much money, people were giving to you. Did that inspire you to give to others or what was the real inspiration behind the Make-A-Wish Foundation and getting to that point?

We were so poor and the people were taking care of us. When I was ten, eleven years old, a father figure that became my father figure, a mentor at that time had reminded me and said, “Many people are helping you.” We lived in a little town of 500 people called Seligman, Arizona, predominantly Mexican, American and Indian. They were helping us. He said, “You don’t have money to give back, Frank. You can start giving back right now.” I said, “I don’t have a penny?” He said, “Look at Mrs. Sanchez for example, the Widow Sanchez. Look at her yard. It’s full of weeds. You can go over there and clean that up because she is one of them that’s bringing you and your mom, beans and tortillas to help you eat.” I remembered that whole lesson that you don’t have to have money to give back. Just go help somebody. That’s another a tagline, “Be kind, give back any way you can.”

It doesn’t matter what’s going on in our lives. There’s somebody right next to us that can use our support and what value it is to reach out to. They’re supporting us in different ways and we can support them.

There are so many examples of that. You see people on the street that might need a helping hand. It’s even so simple as buying somebody a cup of coffee at one of your convenience markets. It’s simple as that.

It’s a moment to stop and do something kind for someone else. I try to embody that myself. If I’m in the city and I see that there are people who are sitting and living on the streets, maybe you can buy them a meal. It’s simple. If you’re out getting a meal, just order an extra meal.

You see somebody hanging around a fast food restaurant like McDonald’s or something, what was it like now? If I have time, I give a perfect example. When we were producing this movie, Wish Man, we were over in the Hollywood area and we’re a little early for a meeting. We went into a local bagel shop. When I say we, the producer was Greg Reid and outside was a homeless person, a lady with a shopping cart and everything she owned. She walked in. It was a chilly morning. He said, “Excuse me, Frank.” He went over and says, “My name is Greg Reid. What’s your name?” She cowered back a little bit. He said, “We’re having breakfast this morning. Would you like to join us? Tell me what you want. I’ll go get it for you.” He sat down and started talking to her. She’s got tears in her eyes. I overheard the conversation. She said, “Nobody’s ever asked me what’s happened.” As we left, she’s so thankful. He shook her hand and I noticed that it had $100 folded and that slipped into her palm. What a perfect example of giving back. The biggest thing was asking her what was going on, asking her what her story was, talking to people.

That’s such a great example of everybody can be hero, it wasn’t about the money that lit her up. It was that somebody cared enough to stop and talk to her. Even asking someone their name when you said that, I would imagine that they feel nameless and not seeing on the streets. That in itself just a powerful story.

It made her feel special that day.

You mentioned the movie. I was waiting to get to that. Tell me I understand how did this movie get made? What’s the premise behind making this movie?

The movie is Wish Man. That’s a tagline some Wish kids as we call it gave me several years ago. I was speaking at an event in San Diego and the host, Greg Reid, was interviewing me on stage. He said, “Frank, what’s your wish?” This was in about Make-A-Wish should have been about 34 years old at that time. I said, “I never even thought about that. Nobody’s ever asked me. It’s not about me, it’s about the kids.” He said, “What’s your wish?” I said, “I like my story to be told so my kids, my grandkids know that dad, papa did something cool in his life.” That was it.

TBT 74 | Be A Hero

Be A Hero: You don’t have to have money to give back, just go help somebody.


A couple of weeks later, he approached me and said, “We’re going to do a movie about your life.” I said, “No, you’re not.” He said, “Yes, we are.” I thought he meant a documentary. He said, “No. It’s a featured motion picture. We’re going to do it from a period piece, 1950s to 1980s,” from ten years old to when I started the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The people that influence me, I mentioned the one and giving back that helped develop my character, my integrity, my work ethic and my adventures with the highway patrol, being killed in the line of duty and brought back to life. Why was I brought back and met this little boy that inspired me to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s the basis of the movie. It’s been six years putting this together. Two and a half years working with the director, who wrote the screenplay also, Theo Davies. They brought me on as location scout, finding the locations in Arizona and technical advisor, consultant producer as we started filming the movie in 2017 in Arizona. After a year of editing, we’re finally ready to go in the theaters.

That’s so exciting to see your wish come true.

I never thought of anything. I like my kids to know something was going on. They do. Now they’re a little bit older. I never pictured a motion picture. It’s been an exciting run.

It’s an extra piece of your legacy. You’ve done so many wonderful things in creating Make-A-Wish and all the children and families that have been served and benefited. You’re also a veteran, is that correct?

Yes, I’ve served in the Air Force Vietnam era.

Thank you for your service. Even there that’s giving to your country, the sacrifice that one makes to do that is significant.

I’m a true patriot. One of the big things along that line is with being the first president and CEO of Make-A-Wish, it’s given me an opportunity now years later to sit on several boards. You mentioned service, one of the advisory board members I’m on is the US Veterans, US VETS. Our mission is to find homeless veterans, get them in temporary housing, get them into counseling, job training, job placement and permanent housing. This is a nationwide chapter. Our local one here was successful with this. It’s giving back to the community that way. Many people helped me in my life. It’s fortunate to meet these people, all the positive influences they gave to me. It also allowed me to, because of the amount of work I’ve spent many years in law enforcement and retiring as a homicide detective.

Be kind and give back any way you can. Click To Tweet

I’m sure you’ve got some stories there too.

Some of them. I’ve also got a book out called Wishman because the movie is based on a true story. If you go to the movies and you see based on a true story, Hollywood likes to embellish it a little bit. The book is a true story. It has some adventures back when I was a motorcycle officer that is in that book, some sad, some funny.

It sounds like it’s a nice compliment to the movie. They want to get the book and to go see the movie because there are somewhat different, is that right?

Yeah. The book is available on Amazon. It’s called Wishman. You can also find out information on my website, WishMan1.com.

We’ll see if we can drive some people to US VETS to make some donations in your name so that we can continue to serve you.

I appreciate that. Also, we got approved another nonprofit that we started. A gentleman out in Las Vegas, Randy Sutton, a close friend. He’s a retired Las Vegas Metro Police lieutenant. A lot of people think when a police officer is injured in the line of duty that the city, county, state, wherever they work for taking care of them, take care of their hospital bills, takes care of their wages until they go back to work, which is not true. He uses his own insurance. He has to use his own sick time. When that sick time runs out, he uses a vacation time. When that runs out, many agencies throughout the United States say, “You don’t get paid anymore.” Even though he’s been injured in the line of duty, shot, stabbed, auto wreck, whatever it might be.

A lot of people don’t know that. What we’ve started, we got approved 501(c)3. It’s a new foundation called The Wounded Blue. What we’re going to do is we’re going to find all those officers nationwide, go in and take care of his salary until he can go back to work. We’re also developing a whole line of counselors throughout the United States that can go in and have private counseling with these officers. There are so many with PTSD-type syndromes. In fact in 2018, 156 officers committed suicide because they could not get counseling from their agencies. We’re going to offer that. It’s going to be private, not through the agency but right to that officer’s home to take care of that officer. I’m very happy to be a board member on the Board of Directors for this new foundation and another example of giving back.

TBT 74 | Be A Hero

Wish Man: Official: The Authorized Memoir of Frank Shankwitz

I hope that our audience will go check out those sites and will do what they can to support you in your efforts. I definitely will because those are two huge problems that we have in the United States. It’s great to have these foundations that can support those who have done so much to serve us.

I met a young lady in New York City. She’s one of the permanent cast members for Phantom of the Opera on the Chorus Lines. She is saying, “I want to do something to help the kids and I don’t know what.” I started thinking, “You’ve got the Chorus Lines, you know everything. How about going into the hospitals or so on and entertaining the kids?” She started a foundation. I’m glad to be an advisory board member on that called Broadway Hearts. What they do is they get several of the cast members do mall shows around New York City and they go into the hospitals, especially the Ronald McDonald Homes and entertain the kids with dancing, singing, a lot of the Disney type songs that the kids love. This has only been established now for about six months and already having people saying, “How do we get a chapter in my city like Chicago or LA or San Francisco, where the big theater groups are?” The kids love it. It’s a great idea. It’s another example of giving back.

She is doing it with skills and the access to resources that she has and we all have access to some resources, even if it’s the ability to clean up somebody’s yard. Whatever resources we have access to, it’s incredible if we can gather them up and use them for the greater good.

If you don’t have that money to give back, your time is sometimes a lot more valuable than money.

I know that you were separated from your father at a young age. I don’t know if that’s in the movie. How did that influence you as being a giver do you think?

It wasn’t my idea to be separated from my father. My mother was a little bit strange. I’ve learned that having a strange mother helps develop characters. I have so many father figures, especially in this little town of Seligman, a gentleman named Juan Delgadillo, who became my father figure. He taught me things that I had never had anybody teach me how to build things, how to take care of myself. He got me involved with sports, got me involved with music and everything else. He taught that work ethic and the biggest thing is to help somebody out when you can. One of the lessons, when I started seventh grade my mother said, “I can’t afford you anymore,” and left me on my own. “What do I do now?” Juan was the one that said, this is a very popular term now but not then, is how to turn the negatives into positives. I said, “Juan, what are you talking about? I’m homeless right now.”

When I worked as a dishwasher, I started washing full-time at ten years old and he said, “You make $26 a week by washing dishes. I know you had to give all that money to your mother. I’ve arranged for you to live with Widow Sanchez.” I will try to help out and she’s helping me for $20 a week. “For the first time, you’re going to have $6 extra in your pocket,” which I’d never had before. “Also, for the first time you’re going to have your own bedroom and you’re going to have your own bathroom,” because we lived in a little trailer without any type of plumbing. She’s the best cook in town. She’s got the first television in town. Those are all those positives that came from that negative. I remember that lesson my whole life. We all have hiccups in our life. How to take care of that, how to turn that hiccup into a positive. The biggest thing is never feel sorry for yourself. You’re hungry, you get a little something to eat. That’s a whole lot more than nothing to eat. Be always grateful for everything that happens in your life.

Just talk to people. The biggest thing is asking someone what was going on and what her story was. Click To Tweet

I like that I’m a big person around words and how our words have a different energy. The words that we use can make a big difference. The word that you use when you say hiccup is much better of a word than even a challenge or a problem or anything that’s even heavier than that. It makes it seem like it’s something you can get over. A hiccup goes away. I like that language. It’s supportive also of turning those positives into a negative.

I delivered a commencement address to St. Norbert College and I used that word hiccup. I met so many students afterward and they said, “I love that. I never thought about that.” What you said, we can cure a hiccup.

It passes quickly. I’m definitely going to use that one as well. You should never feel sorry for yourself. I’m a big one with that too is I believe that we can always compare ourselves to someone that has more. There’s always someone that has less as well. When we choose which one we want to compare to and be grateful that we have what we have, there’s always somebody who has less or has a more difficult time than we do.

All you have to do is walk around or drive around and see examples and be thankful for everything that you have.

This movie is coming out. This was your wish you said several years ago. Now that this wish is coming true, what’s your next wish?

I’ve got to keep wishing. I’m involved with so many projects. I retired in 2014 from the state police. I had no jobs. I’m looking in a classified ad for a retired homicide detective because I don’t want to sit around. There was nothing. I’m fortunate to get involved with this movie production, which has led now to others, been asked to be involved with other productions like TV documentaries, TV shows, specials, maybe even another movie not involving with me but another person. It’s given me a whole new career. My wish is to stay active. That’s definitely going to keep me active.

You’re also a keynote speaker, is that correct?

TBT 74 | Be A Hero

Be A Hero: Turn the negatives into positives.


Yes, that’s very flattering. Through the mentoring of some people, in 2016 Forbes identified me as the number one keynote speaker in the nation. On a plane, it seems like every week, every other week to some speaking events, a lot of corporate events, corporate speaking now, how to advance your brand, how to give back by advancing your brand. It seems to go well with the corporate groups. I’m fortunate on that. I have a manager, Stephanie, who lives in Iowa. She’s always got me book somewhere.

That wish will come true because it’s coming true because you’ll be in high demand because I believe that things come back to you and you can see you’re involved in some fantastic organizations. You’re doing some great things. Is there anything else that you want to say about the movie that’s being released, Wish Man, that you think people will be interested in or that you wanted to share?

There are about fifteen states that the movie is going in. It’s an inspirational movie based on almost like Rudy or Blindside, how to basically give back, how to help people out. We’ve had a lot of positive reviews on pre-screenings through critics, etc. It’s a low-budget independent movie. I can’t believe how we made that movie, the production team and some great actors in there. A young actor that plays me in my mid-30s, Andrew Steel from Australia, this is his first US role. This man works so hard on this. He spent almost a year and a half with me back and forth flying from Hollywood to Northern Arizona where I live, going over accents, going over dialogue. We had to send him to motorcycle training. We had to send him to weapons training, everything to knock out this role. I call him kid because to me he’s a kid. He worked so hard on this. He did a knock-off performance. In October 2018, there was an awards show. We were nominated as one of the pictures for the best inspirational movie. It wasn’t even the theaters yet. We won the award along with him being the new inspirational actor. It gave us a little bit of credibility even though we weren’t in theaters yet.

I’ve seen the preview of the film. I’m involved as an executive producer. It is an amazing film. For our audience, you want to find a way that you can see it, whether it’s in the theaters, ask your theater whether they’re going to have it because that may encourage more theaters to take it on because it is an independent film. Look for it also on digital format. It’s going to be also released internationally. There are a lot of tears. There’s a lot of laughter and great acting as you said. Andrew Steel did a wonderful job and so did all the other actors. Anything else that sticks out in terms of a moment in the film that brought even you to tears?

I was going to bring that up. We’re on our third day of filming and my role as a consulting producer and a technical advisor, I work with a script supervisor. Every morning, we’d be usually about the first ones on set. I was going over the lines for the day, going over the costumes, going over everything to make sure when the cast and crew got there that we’re ready to roll. A lovely young lady of named Kennedy Del Toro, about the third day in the morning, she grabbed me, hugged me and starts crying “Kennedy, what’s wrong?” She said, “I’m a Wish child.” I’ve got tears in my eyes. The crew comes on. We’re telling this story. Everybody’s got tears in their eyes. Her wish when she was fourteen was to go to film school for the actress and so on. She was too old to do it. At age seventeen, she went into remission. They sent her to a Hollywood for the schools. Because of that, all of a sudden she became a script supervisor and working all over the place. It’s much fun having this young lady, a Wish child. Talk about a full circle that we’re doing a movie about me and having a Wish child help produce it. We stay in touch all the time. Hopefully, she’s going to be at the Hollywood premiere.

Any other key moments that stood out for you during the filming?

There are so many. It’s surreal to sit there and watch movies being made about yourself. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s flattering. These actors that were in this were so good. I’m sitting there with a little bit of tears in my eyes on the scene. I said, “That’s me that they’re portraying.” I’m so engrossed in what the acting is. There’s a scene when son meets father for the first time after years and years with Bruce Davison and Andrew Steel. There are very few words spoken but the acting on that, you’ve got to bring a box of Kleenex for that one scene. These gentlemen are so good in their profession and what they’re doing.

Your time is a lot more valuable than money. Click To Tweet

You don’t need a lot of words to convey a lot of emotion.

To watch these actors on the set and working so hard when they talk about sixteen-hour days. In-between takes, everybody that was cast members are studying their scripts. They’re not horsing around or playing, but they’re studying the scripts for the scene. We have Tom Sizemore playing there. We were filming in the Court House Square, all grass and everything. It’s very beautiful with the big trees, nice and cool. He’s always carrying a football because he had quite a career in high school and college. Injuries prevented him from going to the Pros. He started to throw a football around a little bit. Some of the kids around town saw that he’s playing football with the kids throwing around. All of a sudden, they’ve got a crowd around there. The local people are loving the interaction with these actors, with these children around town.

Thank you so much for being here, Frank. You’re a wonderful example of giving. One last question, bringing it back to how we can be more productive and the element of how it comes back to that, how do you think that contribution impacts our ability to be more productive, happier and healthier?

It’s a feel-good thing. I stress that you don’t have to have money to give back. It’s a little labor intensive. My wife and I have a mile that we clean up litter on, a dedicated mile. Going out there and clean up the mile, but as we’re doing that a little bit labor intensive, it’s in a rural area that we live in, cars going by beeping horn, waving. The thank you makes you that feel good thing. There are many other ways to help out. One of the examples is with US VETS, our local chapter, we did a drive for all things toilet paper and soap. You never think about that and what the costs are on that. We had a little drive. People go to the local Walmart or Costco, whatever it might be, and spring in all this over. Look what they did on costs on that big deal. You’re spending $14. You get the whole community doing something like that. Many corporations’ events that are brand by getting the media involved, just not writing a check but doing something big. One of them was we had a vehicle wrapped with the US VETS donated by. We’re quite away from Phoenix but the local Phoenix press and TV stations even picked that up to advance that brand for that company that did that. There are many ways from major to minor.

We need more good news, Frank. We need more good news the people are talking about.

My wife is very involved with the United Animals, they rescue the animals, take care of them, get funds, adopt them out, foster them out. It’s so much involved.

To the people who are going to see Wish Man, they’re going to see how you met your wife, isn’t that true?

TBT 74 | Be A Hero

Be A Hero: Hearing “Thank you” makes you feel good.


Yes, but I think it’s the other way around.

What we talked about that you can see that there’s so much involved in the film. Thank you so much for being here. I am grateful and looking forward to the premier and also the release of this movie. One of your wishes is also going to be to get this movie out to as many people as possible. I’m going to do my best to support you in doing that. Here’s what I say that time is not an impact around your productivity. I say time never was and never will be a measure of your productivity. There was a study done at the University of Pennsylvania. They had two groups of people and basically, they measured their levels of stress, the stimuli, how they felt about time. They took that baseline.

One group, they gave them back time. They took away responsibilities that they had during the week so that they can have more time to do things that they wanted to do. The other group, they got community service. In reality, they were given more to do so they had less time to themselves. They went about doing this. They brought them back in to study the hormone levels and go through the questionnaires again about how much stress they felt, how they felt about time and so forth. Interesting enough, the group who was given back their time did not feel any more satisfied. They were still as stressed and felt like they didn’t have enough time in their life. Interesting enough, even more so was the group that was given community service. They had less stress. They felt better about the time that they had. They had more to do.

I want you to see that time never was and never will be a measure of our productivity. It has little to do with it because it’s how we show up for the time that we have. It’s how much of ourselves we bring to that time and also the attitude that we bring in. When we’re in an attitude of gratitude and we’re out there serving others and focusing out on other people, we are also feeling better about ourselves. We’re feeling happier and more fulfilled. That has an impact on how productive we feel and also what it is that we accomplish with the time that we do have available to work on things that are important to us.

Take that note and go out. Frank has given us a number of different links so that you can donate some money or time to the police, to veterans, to children in hospitals and to these different groups that are out there. If you don’t have the time and you don’t have the money that you can do, you can definitely find something that’s in your wheelhouse and resources that you have access that you can help. Even if it’s your neighbor, whether it’s any group of people or animals, whatever is in your heart, search in your heart for what matters to you and who you can best support and make it a regular thing that you can do.

It’s also a great thing to do as a family. We as a family, we go support the SPCA because my kids love animals. They are saddened that there are animals who are left out, don’t have a place to go and often are sent to these kill shelters. We support in that way. We support a number of other different charities as well. Look together to see how you can do it as a family, how you can do it as an individual, and how this will make a difference in bringing more fulfillment to your life and to the lives of others. Thanks for reading. We’ll see in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Frank Shankwitz

TBT 74 | Be A HeroFrank Shankwitz is a public speaker, movie producer/advisor, and philanthropist on the board of several Non-For-Profit organizations.

Frank Shankwitz is best known as the creator and a founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an extraordinary charity that grants the wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. From humble beginnings, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is now a global organization that grants a child’s wish somewhere in the world on an average of every 28 minutes.

Frank spent his career as an Arizona Police officer and after retiring as a detective, he is still serving police nationwide through a new charity called The Organization is called Wounded Blue to support officers with physical injuries and emotional and psychological trauma.


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