Sean Stephenson, Creator of 10k Speeches
Overcoming Adversity and Learning from the Best with Sean Stephenson
Bleeding brain. Fractured skull. Concussion.
These were the effects. The event was just as sudden. One Thursday in late July, Sean Stephenson took his dog for a stroll. Then he fell—ripped from his wheelchair, Stephenson crashed onto the concrete ground, a traumatic impact that landed him in the hospital and left him for some time without short-term memory.
Yet he had dodged death, and not for the first time. When Stephenson was born, he was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, an uncommon disease that brings stunted growth and fragile bones. Doctors predicted he would quickly perish.
Instead, he lived, growing up to become a motivational speaker and businessman. After traveling for years, speaking to audiences far and wide, Stephenson has cut down on the airplane flights and shifted to holding seminars in one location in Arizona. His success hasn’t been easy, but he says that only a fraction of his challenges stem from disability. The rest have to do with the sorts of things most people struggle with in various ways: friends and money and marriage.
Stephenson’s story shows that entrepreneurship—no, life itself—is laced with challenges. Sometimes, you’re buffeted by events that you can’t control. He recommends that in those instances, when you really can’t control the outcome, you stop trying to. If you can affect change, do so, but if you can’t, don’t stress for no reason.
“I know that if I’m willing to let go of control, it’s going to be a lot easier process than trying to fight for the control with some invisible force out there,” he says. “Call it God, call it universe, call it law of attraction, call it science, call it whatever makes you comfortable, but there are powers that play outside of us that are much bigger than us.”
As he recovered from his July accident, Stephenson felt out of his depth, so he did what made sense to him: he sat back and had to laugh, waiting to see where it would all go.
As much sense as relinquishing control sometimes makes, it’s not an everyday play. In most areas, Stephenson doesn’t passively await his fate. He shapes it, because there’s a flipside to the challenges he has no control over: the ones he does.
“The start of my career is not sexy. It really started with discrimination,” he says. At age 17, Stephenson applied to a number of jobs, all of which he believes rejected him because of his disability.
Instead of getting angry, he says, he got curious. Eager to earn, he sought other ways to make money, which led him to learn about the possibility of becoming his own boss. That’s when he was hired to speak to an audience at a high school about what it was like to live with a disability. The pay: one hour for seventy-five dollars.
“At $75, when you’re 17 years old in the mid-90s, that’s a lot of money,” Stephenson says. “You think you’re the richest kid alive. I bought a lot of video games and junk food and I thought, ‘I could do this more often.’”
He didn’t stop there. He spoke to more high schools, and when he went to college, he spoke to colleges, carrying his message of motivation. He then expanded, speaking to corporations and hospitals and prisons and conferences and organizations of every stripe. He focused on improving his message, his delivery, his marketing.
And his story can teach you a thing or two about entrepreneurship.
One lesson involves the value of learning from others. He has an informal assortment of mentors—21, in fact—that he turns to when he’s stuck. “Their involvement in my career has helped me more than anything else,” he says.
Mentorship is certainly a hot topic among entrepreneurs. It’s hard to find someone who will help guide you through your journey, but Stephenson has a strong opinion on the solution: “Bring them value right away,” he says of potential mentors. “And not the value you think they’d like, and not the value you would like, but the value you’ve found out—through investigation—that you know they would like.”
He points to an example from his own life. People often try to connect with him by offering a free copy of the book they wrote, apparently assuming that he likes books. It’s their attempt to add value to his life. But it doesn’t work. He has stacks of books he’s never read—lots of books. He and his wife often end up donating the tomes to Goodwill. Sean never asked those people for a book. To snag a good mentor, you should make sure there’s something in it for them. Hopefully, it’s something they want.
To really get a mentor interested in your life, however, Stephenson thinks you need to have already be doing cool work. “You’ve got to be playing a game that is inspiring and exciting and interesting to the mentor,” he says. If someone comes to Sean having done “nothing with their life” and asks him to help them do something, he isn’t interested. He feels like it’s a lopsided exchange.
The bottom line is clear: if you want someone to mentor you, provide value to them and make sure your work is interesting. Ensure that the relationship is reciprocal.
It’s worth it, because people who’ve achieved success of their own can help you navigate the choppy waters of business. Despite mentors’ importance, however, Stephenson stresses that decisions ultimately lie with you. “Your mentors are only offering ideas to you,” he says. Sometimes one mentor gives advice that’s at odds with another mentor’s recommendation. “You have to go inside your own gut and say, ‘What works for me?’”
One thing that works for Stephenson, in the constant bid to boost his business, is marketing. There’s no shortage of articles and guides and books that discuss how to effectively market a product or service, but he says that the first step is simply acknowledging how important marketing really is.
Yes, you want to make sales and build a reputable brand. But marketing underpins those efforts. If you’re a great salesperson with no one to talk to, he says, “Who cares?” If you have a beautiful website that nobody knows about, he says, “Who cares?”
Without exposure, nothing else you do for your business matters. That’s why Stephenson says it’s so important to get excited about letting the world know what you have to offer and how it can benefit them.
Of course, the idea of reaching out and bragging about a product scares some aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s hard to shout out to the world if you don’t believe in your own voice. It’s hard to succeed if you lack confidence.
Stephenson taps that as the single most important thing for your business: “You need to protect your confidence,” he says. Don’t hang around people who tear you down. Don’t give in to patterns of thought that minimize your accomplishments.
Entrepreneurship is hard. You need your confidence, Stephenson says, because it’s “the part of you that pulls through when you don’t have a shred of evidence that you’re going to make it.” Sometimes you need that.
But, while moments of crisis beset every entrepreneur, you do need some evidence that you can make it. With his strong focus on mentors, Stephenson believes that learning more broadly is the key to that.
Whether you develop a relationship with a mentor or read extensively about successful businesspeople, you’re learning. He says: “I’m a big believer that those that are willing to study from the best and really bathe themselves in really good knowledge, they’re doing what one of my mentors calls planned inevitability, where you set yourself up to inevitably hit your goals.”
He compares the idea to setting a microwave and then hitting go: The microwave is going to heat up. It’s going to reach the temperature you set it to. It’s planned, and it’s inevitable. With the right reading and research—combined with passion and implementation of the material—you can be as inevitable as the microwave’s temp.
It’s time to turn up the heat.
- How to find mentors
- Key factors and insights on what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur
- Marketing 101 the Sean way!
- Success mindsets
- How Sean has overcome his challenges in life and business as an entrepreneur
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Sean Stephenson
Nathan: Hello and welcome to the Foundr Podcast. My name is Nathan Chan and I am your host coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. Hope you’re having a great week guys. You know, what’s been happening in my world, I’m really, really excited about our trip to the States. Really, really excited about a ton of things we’ve got in the works for Foundr. You guys are gonna love some of the interviews we have coming. They are extremely valuable.
And I’m just having fun and I’m loving hearing from you all. So, you know, if you are enjoying these interviews, if you are enjoying the magazine, please do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you, [email protected] And now let’s talk a little bit about today’s guest, Sean Stephenson. I actually found Sean’s work many, many years ago and I found him to be an extremely inspiring person because he’s gone for things that most of us would never ever have to go through. And he’s a very, very profound entrepreneur too. So I had a really cool in-depth conversation with Sean around mentorship, you know, what it takes to build a successful business and all sorts of other valuable things that are gonna be really, really helpful to you.
So, I’m just gonna leave it at that and I’m gonna leave your curiosity. I hope I’ve still got you, and I’m gonna leave your curiosity open. And let’s jump into the show. I hope you enjoy these interviews. If you are please do leave us a review. It’s super helpful. Let’s jump in.
Today I’m speaking with Sean Stephenson. Sean, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Sean: It’s my pleasure. I’m looking forward to this.
Nathan: So, how did you get your job?
Sean: I got a job of speaking by being turned away from every other job that I applied for. You know, the start of my career is not sexy. It really started with discrimination. I was 17 years old and I applied to work at a limousine company as a dispatcher on the phone. I applied to work as an office assistant in a chiropractic office. I applied to work as a salesperson in a electronics store. I applied for maybe a couple other positions all of which blatantly looked me in the face and said, “We’re not in the market of hiring somebody with a disability that’s three feet tall.”
And it’s kind of hard to believe that today because we have laws around the country that protect people with disabilities and that, you know, equal rights. But, you know, it wasn’t that long ago that people could blatantly discriminate against you in the workplace if you have a disability. Unlike race or sexual orientation or gender, it’s very hard to unify a group of people on the planet that have all different types of disabilities. You know, if you’re a woman, you’re a woman. If you’re black, you’re black, and you’re gay, you’re gay. But what if what you have is so radically different between each person? A blind person and a person in a wheelchair have radically different challenges.
And so it’s very hard to, at least I experienced, unify a group to say, “This is wrong.” Well, so instead of getting angry I got curious, and I got interested in how else can I make money if no one’s gonna hire me? And I’m sure if I would have kept going, I eventually probably would have found somebody with the soft spot who would have maybe hired me. But it wasn’t happening for a long while. So then I learned about small businesses. And I learned that, wow, I could actually be my own boss. And I got hired for $75 for one hour when I was 17 years old in 1995-ish. I got hired to speak to a high school about what it’s like to have a disability. And it’s $75, when you’re 17 years old in the mid-’90s, that’s a lot of money. You think you’re the richest kid alive.
And, you know, I played a lot of video games and junk food and I thought I could do this more often. And it kind of really. I started to speak into high schools while I was in high school then I started speaking at colleges when I was in colleges, and then I started to speak to corporations and in hospitals and in prisons and in federal associations and conferences and organizations and it just kept growing. And the more I put my focus on it, the more I got better at it, the better at the message delivery, the marketing, my overall attitude around business.
And then once I finally added the last piece that skyrocketed my business, which is a collection of mentors, some might pay, some do it out of, you know, just kindness. And honestly they’re both important to me. But when I finally added the key component of a group of 21 mentors who really I turned to when I’m stuck or when I have questions or when my head’s up my ass, these individuals tell me the truth.And their involvement in my career has helped me more than anything else.
Nathan: Wow, Okay, there’s a lot I’d like to unpack here. Firstly around the mentor piece, 21 mentors is a lot.
Sean: Oh, I don’t recommend that. And when I speak 21, the reason why I have 21 is just that I found that, on average, if you have 21 mentors, 7of them are going to be active in your life at any moment. But you don’t know which seven and so it rotates, you know. I have three groups of seven. And these are just averages. These aren’t strict numbers. Sometimes it could be four, sometimes it could be nine, right? But I found that depending on what’s going on in a busy person who’s success will depend on how much bandwidth they have for somebody else.
And the groups of mentors that I have, they’re not always the same people. I’m constantly rotating in and out, two to three new mentors based on the value exchange that’s occurring. Some mentors have stayed in my group since the start, and I don’t really take, you know, a sword out of my sheets and knight them as Sean Stephenson’s mentor or anything. There’s no official ceremony of mentoring Sean. So none of them really even know necessarily that they are my mentor. They just know that I’m either paying them or spending time with them. But I know. I keep very good tabs on who is actively bringing value to me and who am I bringing back the value to.
And it’s been an incredible journey and maybe 10 years from now I’ll say that what I was doing was naive and that there’s a better system but right now this is what’s giving me the most results.
Nathan: This is a greattopic that I’d love to touch on a lot more. So, something that comes up a lot and a lot of readers actually reach out to me and ask, and I’m always trying to find out what the biggest problems and frustrations are for our readers and how I can help them, and something comes up a lot is they say they need a mentor. And, you know, it was so funny when you said, “I don’t knight these people that they are my mentors,” because it’s a little bit weird if you go to someone and say, “Can you be my mentor?”
Sean: Oh, yeah. I don’t recommend that because you’re taking value as opposed to delivering value. And whenever somebody confronts me and says, “Sean, would you mentor me?” my natural reaction is to lean back and go, “Whoa, whoa, I’m over here busting my ass on my mission. Why do I need to carve out time for you?” However, if an individual is playing a really big game in life, and let’s say they just want a gold medal in the Olympics. And then they meet me at an event. And they ask if they could take me to coffee and they’re already established that they’re doing cool shit with their life and they’re planning on a big level, then I’m more apt to wanna take that meeting.
And so then I take that meeting and they might say, “You know what? I read your book and I like this and this but I have a question about that.” And now I see that they’ve actually done their homework on me and they’ve already started putting in time and energy into learning from me. Now I’m even more apt to wanna mentor them. Then they say, “Hey, Sean, what do you recommend that I do next? Is there any program of yours that I can purchase or enroll into a seminar that you’re offering that could help me?” Now we’re talking because when somebody pays me, I pay attention to them.
Now, not all my mentors do I pay and not all my apprentices pay me but I can say it’s probably the quickest way to get a mentor’s attention because there’s a lot of noise in the world of people wanting things. When you say, “Hey, I’m willing to give you something that I know you would probably like,” a.k.a. money, you get attention really quickly.
Nathan: So you would recommend if somebody is trying to look for a mentor or someone that they look up to that if walking down the path that they’re about to take or achieve really big things that you aspire to, you would say, see how you can help them first. Serve first then ask later?”
Sean: Yeah. I would do a two part. One is bring them value right away. And not the value you think they like and not the value you would like, but the value that you’ve found out through investigation that you know they would like. For instance, people might think, “Oh, Sean likes reading. He’s a big reader. He loves books. I’m gonna write a book and give him a copy of my book.” I probably don’t care because people give me their books all the time. I have stacks, floor to ceiling of complete strangers’ books that I’m never going to read that at some point my wife Mindy will say, “Sean, what are you gonna do with these books? You know you’re not gonna read them.” And I go, “Yeah, you’re right.” I feel bad about not reading them but I don’t have any interest to read them. It’s just like, “Well, the let’s donate them. Let’s tear out the name page where they described it to you, and we’re gonna send it to the, you know, the Goodwill store.”
And I’m only sharing this truth with you because I never asked those people for a book. I’ve got more books than I know what to do with in my life. I have enough books that if I stopped buying books today and I read them all, I would probably take me the rest of my life to read them all, okay? So giving me a random book or a book that you wrote, probably not gonna make an impact.
Now, if you say, “Sean, I heard that you wanna meet Will Smith, and I spent the last three years working in an organization that does a lot of charity work with him. I just met with him. I told him all about you and he would love to have a phone call with you,” now you got my attention. Now you’re giving me value that I want, not value that you think I want but that you know I want because you did your homework. So you gotta bring value that you know the mentor wants. And then the second thing is you gotta be playing a game that is inspiring and exciting and interesting to the mentor. So if somebody comes to me and they say, “Sean, I’ve done nothing with my life but I wanna work with you to do something cool,” I have very little interest in that because they’re basically coming saying, “I’m bringing nothing to the table for your enjoyment. Now entertain me.”
And it’s lopsided. Life is…you gotta constantly ask, where on the teeter totter am I? Am I on the bottom or the top? Because if I’m on the top that means I’m not bringing any weight to this conversation. And so, therefore, I’m not going to get to play teeter-totter game with him. If the mentor brings clear cut value from the start, that you don’t match them or at least come close or exceed that value, why do you think they wanna continue to pay attention to you? Does that make sense?
Nathan: Yeah. No, 100% spot on. And when I look at my life and the mentors that I’ve acquired, certainly in life and business, it makes a lot of sense for this kind of stuff,I kind of did naturally. For some people it’s not that easy though. So you really have packed that nicely. Another thing I’d like to touch on was when you first started, you know. You started the speaking circuit and it’s turned into, you know, books, information products, courses and all those kinds of things. How did you first start? Like you said that when you’re 17, your first gig. How did you build momentum and build up that business?
Sean: Well, I believe the myth is that Sean Stephenson got into it and it took off like a rocket ship. I would love for it to have worked out that way. That’s not how it worked out. I got into it and it did grow, but it grew slowly over the years until I finally took it seriously. It was more of a paid hobby. I did it part-time while I was going through school and then when I even graduated. I got distracted by a lot of shiny objects. For a while I thought I wanted to be a network marketer and I joined three different network marketing companies, none of which worked out for me.
I wasn’t a good fit for them and they weren’t a good fit for me. That works for some people, that’s great. But that wasn’t in my path. So I got distracted for a while doing that. For a while, and I don’t see this as a distraction, I feel like it was a great compliment but for a while I really became hardcore into studying the mind and becoming a therapist. And that’s because one of my audience members was a young girl, probably junior high age, and she rolled up her sleeves, she came up to me after my speech, she rolled up her sleeves and she said, “Why do I do this to myself?” And then she proceeded to show me her arms and her arms have been sliced up, looked like a cat had attacked her but were deeper than cat claws. They look like somebody put a lot of energy in cutting themselves.
And I never heard of self-mutilation. I’ve never seen somebody harm themselves. And it threw me back. It scared me. It made me feel ill-prepared to help people because I didn’t have the answer. And I thought, “Wow, I just stirred this girl up for one hour telling stories to make her laugh and cry. And now she’s sharing this with me and I don’t have a good response.” And I said what anyone should say in these scenarios, which is the truth. And I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll go find out.”
And that’s when I went back to school to become a therapist and I spent a good additional eight years back in school to become a psychotherapist and study the best of the best on why we do what we do and what causes us to self-combust and what causes us to take off in life. And I really went down the road of therapy in helping people one on one, as opposed to in groups like as a speaker. And I did some speaking but for a few years I dedicated a lot of my time to being a full time therapist. And so I became a professional listener, not just a professional speaker. And then as time went on, the career started to balance out. I spent time as a therapist. I spent time as a speaker and then I, you know, I realized that I had to clone myself.
So I became a marketer of products like books and CDs and DVDs so that my information could sit on your nightstand on the other side of this planet without me having to be there. And they could outlive me. You know, God willing, my book “Get Off Your Butt” will be on shelves in your homes long after I’m dead and buried, whenever that day comes. And that’s what’s great about the spoken word versus the written word is the spoken word’s powerful but the written word lives on, and the recorded word lives on.
So for me it was a process of kinda kicking and screaming into the world of entrepreneurs because I wanted to become President of the United States. I worked for President Bill Clinton. I was working for a U.S. congressman. I was being, I wouldn’t say groomed because it sounds cooler than it was but I certainly was grooming myself to be a full-time professional politician because I wanted to impact the world. And I thought it was gonna be through government. But meanwhile I had a knock at the door over and over and over throughout the years of people wanting to learn from me as a speaker, author or therapist.
And then I realized, stop trying to sell the world on chocolate ice cream if everybody in the world thinks that you’re the best at strawberry. Create a strawberry ice cream if that’s what the marketplace is asking for. But a hard-headed, ego-driven young punk kid doesn’t wanna hear that.
Nathan: So, it sounds like you’ve gone through and done a lot of different things, and you’ve found your calling would you say that right now?
Sean: I think the calling is constantly changing. It’s evolving. It’s growing with me. I certainly found my profession. I found my avocation like what I make my vocation, what I make my money at but even that is changing, even that is evolving.
So, I’ll give you an example. I have two mentors. One, and they’re completely opinionated with opposite paradigms of the world in business. And imagine being the guy in the middle that’s trying to decide which mentor to believe when they’re both successful.
One mentor says, “Sean, you need to know where you’re gonna be in 10 years and you need to work backwards. You need to know a clear picture, what are you doing, what are you making, who are you with, where are you traveling. You need to get a clear picture and know exactly where you’re headed.” That sounds great. He’s making millions of dollars. He’s got a family. He looks happy. Okay.
And I meet this other mentor. This other guy’s got all those things too. But he says, “Sean, I disagree with that mentor. I think that if you hold too tightly to your vision of where you’re gonna be in 10 years, you’ll miss great opportunities that’ll come along that’ll be better and more fun and more enjoyable and more financially lucrative than the ideas that you have of what you wanna be in 10 years.” And he’s super successful.
And I’m sitting in the middle going, “Who do I believe? What do I do?” And that’s when I came up to the realization that your mentors are only offering ideas to you, that you have to go inside your own gut and say, “What works for me?” And for me it’s kind of straddling both worlds. I’m clear on where I wanna be and where I’m headed but I’m also flexible too. If it’s not fun, then I’m not gonna keep doing it. And if…not just fun, but if it’s not fun and it’s not producing the right results, then what the hell am I doing, right?
And so for instance, I wouldn’t say I’d met my calling because the calling keeps changing. My calling, you know, five years ago may look the same than it does now to speak but I’m doing it so differently because, I don’t know if you heard about this but I was in a near death accident, a near fatal accident about…oh gosh, where are we going on? Four months ago, five months ago?
Sean: And that was a turning point for me because I was going around the world collecting checks ranging between $10,000 and $30,000 for a one hour of work. So by no means am I complaining about the success I’ve had. But what happened was I was burning out. My body was getting more and more tired getting on airplanes. Well, then I had this accident and I couldn’t get on an airplane. I couldn’t travel to make my living. And, you know, I don’t know where you’re at financially or where you wanna be at, but I can tell you from my own personal experience just because a person has a lot of money doesn’t mean that they’re secure because if they keep raising their quality of living then the money shuts off. If they weren’t smart about how they invested in their insurance and everything like that, they could be in a jam just as quickly as somebody without one.
And that’s where I found myself is that I had made my money trading time and not having my money make me money, and not having my intellectual properties make me money. And there was a lot of things that I had done that were scary when I couldn’t work. And I made a massive change in my life where I said, “That’s it. I’m done playing this game. This has been fun. I’ve enjoyed for the last 21 years.” Well, it’s about 17 where I’ve been paid, 21 that I’ve been speaking because I started speaking when I was a teen, you know, an early teen. But I said, “That’s it. I’m gonna stop getting on airplanes to go fly around to collect checks. I now have a skill set that is important to others. I’m gonna teach people how to do that. I’m gonna teach to young entrepreneurs, the old entrepreneurs, that when they come out of retirement and everybody in between that wants to learn how do you get on an airplane and collect checks for $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $30,000 a pop?.
And so I went from being a prince that went around the world to see all the lands, to a king that’s building a kingdom where I say, “If you wanna hear Sean Stephenson speak, you come to my town. You pay me a fee and you sit in an audience and I’ll teach you everything I know.” And so I’ve changed my model. Now we’re more in a seminar model. And I can say, and I say this as humbly as I can, even though it’s not gonna sound very humbling, but I went from making $30,000 an hour to a $250,000 in an hour by shifting the model to play a bigger game. And I have a lot more to risk. That’s not all a net profit to Sean Stephenson, but that’s the game that I’m playing now where instead of having to go out to you, I’m having the use of the world come to see me to get the information that I gathered over the last 21 years.
Nathan: So you’ve kind of in a way created your business more into a lifestyle.
Sean: Exactly. And my lifestyle used to be travel. I mean, before I was married I loved travelling because there was always a new girl to meet, right? And I’m not making any qualms about it. I adored meeting lots of women back in my single days not just for the sexual companionship but the play, the flirting, the fun, the dates, the adventure, the courting, all of that. It was more than just the physical intimacy.
And when I got married, I wanted to do that but just with one person and if I was constantly traveling and she has her own life and she’s not always on the road with me, that wasn’t as fun. It wasn’t as fun to be in Hawaii and be in a gorgeous hotel by myself. I wanted to be back home in my home with my amazing woman and building a career where people came to my amazing spot in the world and play with me.
Nathan: So, I’m curious. Let’s switch gears a little and talk about your challenges in life and business because you’ve gone through a lot and I think what’s really powerful is I think our audience can learn a lot from how do you overcome some of these challenges.
Sean: Sure, so give me an example of what you wanna know specifically.
Nathan: Let’s start with life. Like, you said that life…when you, you know, no one would give you a job, like, how did that feel and how did you overcome all these challenges?
Sean: Sure. You know, most people look at me and they think they know what my challenges are. And they’re actually really wrong. People think that my challenges are based on my appearance and my condition. That’s only about 2% to 10% on average of the challenges that I face. The rest are, you know, how do you balance a marriage while traveling, how do you make sure that you keep the money that you make and that you don’t spend it all foolishly, how do you invest your money, how do you hire the right people to protect your assets, how do you surround yourself with incredible friends that give you great advice and make you a better person versus take from you and drain you.
You know, like those every day challenges are what I face far more than my disability. But there are days where my disability trumps all the other challenges. You know, when I was in my accident…I had my accident, that could’ve happened to anyone, really because it was a traumatic impact on my body and I was thrown four feet onto the concrete and I fractured my skull and had bleeding in the brain. I had a concussion for 25 days. I had no short term memory ability. So if we had a conversation, Nathan, and 10 minutes later I asked you the same thing, you’ll be like, “Sean, we’ve already covered that.” And I didn’t have any recollection that we covered it because my memory had deleted it for 25 days. It was very scary. I didn’t know if I was ever gonna come back.
In those moments what I had to do in those challenging times, faith is all I had. And I don’t mean in the religious sense. I just mean in, well, there’s gotta be a bigger picture here. And I know that if I’m willing to let go of control, it’s gonna be a lot easier process than trying to fight for the control with some invisible force out there. And call it God, call it universe, call it law of attraction, call it science, call it whatever makes you comfortable. But there are powers that play outside of us that are much bigger than us.
You know, the joke is whether you’re spiritual or not, I still think the joke’s funny, if you wanna make God laugh, tell him your plans, you know? I had a plan to hold a seminar in mid-August. And then I got into this accident and I had to reschedule it and we lost a bunch of enrollments and had to send back a bunch of money and, you know, meanwhile we have hospital bills rolling in at tremendous speed. They were not pretty. And, you know, I’m feeling tremendous pressure. What am I gonna do? I just promised all these people that I would hold this seminar. Now people are having to cancel their flights and the hotel is mad at me and, you know, all these things were hitting me. Meanwhile, I’m in pain. I’m on pain medications. I’m losing my short term memory and all that’s hitting me. And truthfully, the way I got through that is the way I’ve gotten through every major challenge which is kinda just kinda smile and laugh and go, “All right, let’s see where the hell this is gonna go.”
You’re not in control. Let’s see what’s the bigger picture. And I can tell you that my event was a much bigger success four months later after it was rescheduled than it ever would been, you know, right after the accident. So sometimes the thing that you hold so tightly of what you wanna achieve, there’s something much better out there for you but your mind can’t comprehend it. It’s like when I ask somebody describe to me the perfect day and then they tell me their perfect day, and I put it on steroids and say, “Well, what if this happens in addition?” they’re like, “Oh, wow. That’s even better. I never even thought that that was possible.” I’m like, “Exactly.”
Because our minds can only think so big. And that’s why I’m so grateful that there’s powers outside of us that somehow can think bigger or can act bigger or have a bigger impact on us than our conscious minds can handle.
Nathan: Well, that was really powerful.
Sean: Does that makes sense?
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sean: I just incoherent rant.
Nathan: No, no, because it kinda answered my question I was gonna ask next like how did you cope. But you pretty much just, as you say, you always do. You just kind of laugh and say, you know, “The obstacle is the way to work out and things always do for you,” right?
Sean: Well, I’ll tell you that’s eventually where I get but that’s not where I started in the moment of impact. I don’t know if you know there’s a prize-winning fighter back in the day named Mike Tyson, right?
Sean: And he was in like so many movies now. But anyway, back in the day he was the most feared fighter on the planet. And it’s because he was ruthless. And he would pummel his opponents to the point that, you know, they couldn’t recognize themselves.
And he said, “You know, everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face.” And where I think that’s a brilliant statement is, everybody has an idea of what they want until they get smacked by something out of their control.
And it’s who…you reveal who you are on this planet in moments where you’re hit with an uncontrollable circumstance. When all of a sudden I was in a hospital and the doctor is saying, “You have bleeding on your brain. They might need operating room to move a chunk of your skull to release the pressure,” you know, that was a game changer. It was a game changer because I realized that I was not in control at that moment, that I had to surrender. And that’s where like prayer and meditation and visualization, I called on everything. I mean, I was looking into Voodoo. I was willing to try anything. And it was because I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. There was gonna need to be a force outside of me to step in or I was done.
And that’s why I pulled out my cellphone and made a video to my Facebook followings saying, “Can you pray for me if you believe in prayer? Can you send me healing energy if you believe in energy? Can you just think positive thoughts about me if you believe in positive thoughts? Can you do whatever feels safe, right and comfortable for you? Because I need everything I can right now.”
And, you know, some might call it a coincidence, some might call it a miracle but within a matter of two hours, hundreds of thousands of people, almost millions of people from around the world were thinking, praying, visualizing for me and the bleeding stopped. And I don’t know how to explain it because the doctors can’t even explain it.
So am I more of a woowoo guy as I get older? Damn straight. Because I’m realizing that when you’re younger you question everything, you know. You’re like, “Well, why? Well, why? Well, why?” And then as you get older and you start getting experience and wisdom under your belt, it’s just cuts and not in like a resigned way but in like a peaceful way, like, you know what? I don’t have any answer to how that blood stopped, but I’m sure glad it did.
Nathan: No, that was really awesome. Thank you for sharing that, man. I love how just open and honest and raw you are.
Sean: Well, I think it’s because it’s been ripped out of me. I can’t say that that’s come naturally. You know, when you’ve been poked and prodded as many times as I have by doctors and nurses, when you had people have to get you dressed in the morning and put you in a toilet at times, put you in a car, shower you, when privacy isn’t an option, you have one or two choices: become clinically depressed and hate your life or become raw and see vulnerability as a strength and accept it. And I found that that way was far more lucrative in every sense of the word.
Nathan: No, I’m loving this conversation. I’m mindful of your time so we have to work towards wrapping up, Sean. A couple of questions, you’re in the business side of things. Any big failures that people can learn from your experience? Any traps that you’d like to give people a heads up on?
Sean: Yeah. Thinking that somebody is gonna save you. You know, I love the movie Zero Dark Thirty I think it’s called. It’s about how they found Bin Laden. You know, the majority of the movie I didn’t really care for it because it was kind of dark but there was one line that I loved where the commander of the SEAL team came in and said, “No one’s coming to save us,” right? No one’s gonna swoop in and save you. This comes down to you. And I love that quote because no one is coming to save you, Nathan. No one’s coming to save me. The only person that’s got a chance at making our life better is us, ourselves.
And that doesn’t mean doggy-dog and that like we gotta be self-driven only, selfish. I think it’s just more of knowing that your career, your financial situation, your investments, your health, your relationship status, everything that matters to you, no one is gonna swoop in and help you with it. You might have mentors but in the end, the mentors are thinking about them. And that’s okay. And when you accept that your career is 100% your responsibility, it’s not your sales team’s responsibility, it’s not your investor’s, your customer’s responsibility, is your responsibility and the mistakes that I made are hoping that some outside marketer, publicist, sales team, banker, agent, producer of concert, like it’s whatever I wanted somebody to come in and be my savior, well, I got burned because there is no savior in life. You are the savior for yourself.
And by coming to that realization, I’ve made a lot more money and I’ve helped a lot more people, and I’ve had a lot more fun.
Nathan: That’s a good one. I feel you there, you know. I was thinking, what you say now I was thinking examples in my head. That’s a great one. What about marketing? Do you have any good tactics around growth. A lot of people listening will just start at something trying to grow and get traction. Any strategies, tactics, things that really shout out at you that you wish you knew around, you know, maybe not personal branding but branding or growth?
Sean: Yeah, yeah. So, I’ll quickly cut this up in three parts. So there’s sales, marketing and branding. Branding is the image that people think of when they think of what you’re bringing to the plan. If they’re even thinking about that, that’s your brand. You know, when you think about Coca-Cola, you think it as a different brand than McDonald’s. They have a different brand than Apple, right? The brand is your identity, how the customer thinks of you.
Then you got marketing. Marketing is the storytelling. It’s the everything you do to get into a conversation to offer them something to buy. Everything you do that gets people into a conversation that turns into a sales transactional conversation, that’s marketing. And then sales is just, “Do you want this? Yes or no? And here’s what’s gonna happen if you do get it. Here’s what’s gonna happen if you don’t get it. Here’s what we’ve learned. Here’s who’s succeeded because they bought. Here’s what happened to the people who didn’t buy.” That’s the sale.
So there are three very separate things. I think branding is not as important as marketing and I think sales is important but in the end I think marketing is the most important because if you’re a really good salesman but you have no one to talk to, you have no prospects, who cares? If you got a really beautiful image and a website and your brand is wonderful but no one knows to go to that website, who cares? It’s like sales is the oxygen to your business. sales, you can’t keep the door open.
Well, if sales is the oxygen, then what’s marketing in that metaphor? Marketing is the breathing, it’s the lungs. And you need your lungs to be working properly. You need both lungs online and inhaling and exhaling.
And what I find is most people they’ll put together sales tools but they’ll never market these tools. And so therefore they never take a deep breath. They either hyperventilate by trying to do too many things at once or they hold their breath because they’re scared about being judged so they never put their product out there. They never market it. And so I would say the best tactic is fall in love with marketing. Stop caring about your sales. Stop caring about impressing people with your numbers. Well, numbers are awesome and important. Get excited about letting the world know what you have to offer and get excited about figuring out why it’s a benefit to them.
And speak into their language and in their thinking. You wanna enter into the conversation they’re already having in their own head. And, you know, I spent a lot of money on marketing, a lot of time on marketing. I have mentors that I…I pay one mentor $25,000 a year to just spend three days with…no, I spend about 7 days with this person for 25 grand. And it’s because I know the value of learning from the best. I moved my whole business to another part of our country over here so that I can be close to my marketing mentors because I knew that I had some phobias around marketing and fears that I had to work through and being around them would be of value to me. I moved my whole life to understand marketing.
Nathan: That’s a good one. Last question, action items for aspiring and novice entrepreneurs, what’s the two best pieces of advice in action items you’d like to give and any final words?
Sean: Yeah, two pieces. One, find people that have what you want and that also you respect. And figure out a way to bring them a ton of value, and do cool shit that gets their attention. And then enter into a long-term relationship with them in a business sense and manner where you, over a years and years’ period, extract value from them but first delivering far more value than they ever expected from you. That would be the first thing. There’s like 12 things in there, I know.
The second thing, the second thing is, realize that the most detrimental thing to your business is not protecting your confidence. This is what I learned from my mentor Dean Gracioussy. And Dean just made $240 million this year. That’s somebody I, you know, pay attention to in the wealth department. You know, money is not the only indicator of success but it sure has an interesting impact over our psyche.
And, you know, he says that, you know, you need to protect your confidence at all costs. That means if you’re around people that you don’t feel really confident when you’re with them because they tear you down, get out of that person’s life. If you’re doing something that is detrimental to your confidence, you’re doing an action step or a belief that you keep repeating that’s tearing down your sense of confidence, you need to interrupt that pattern and find experts, surround yourself with knowledge that’s gonna turn that around because if you’re not in alignment with yourself, if you’re not in your biggest cheerleader, if you aren’t congruent, and what I mean by congruent is your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions aren’t aligned, then no matter what level of expert you hire or podcast you listen to or magazines you follow, none of that’s gonna last. You’re gonna self-sabotage, it’s only a matter of time. You have to be congruent. You have to protect your confidence.
Your confidence is the part of you that pulls through when you don’t have a shred of evidence that you’re gonna make it.
Nathan: That’s a killer one. I never heard that before, that’s great. Oh, yeah, look. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Sean. It was really interesting and awesome conversation. And I have things that I personally would take away from our conversation too, so thank you.
Sean: You’re quite welcome. And I’m glad I could be of value to you and I’m a listener of this program. You know, I’m a big believer that those that are willing to study from the best and really bathe themselves in really good knowledge, they’re doing what one of my mentors calls Planned Inevitability, that where you set yourself up to inevitably hit your goals. Whether you like it or not, you’re gonna get there. It’s like setting the microwave and then hitting go. Unless the power in your house goes out, that microwave is gonna hit that temperature whether you like it or not because you set the timer and you set the degrees and it’s going. It’s planned inevitable.
And, you know, by researching lots of the best material and then implementing the material, you’re gonna get planned inevitable success.
- Learn more about Sean on his website
- Explore Seanstephenson.com
- Follow Sean on Twitter
- Listent to Sean’s podcast
- Check out 10k Speeches
- Visit Sean’s Facebook page