In this Episode
- [00:40]Stephan introduces Aaron Walker, a founder of more than a dozen companies over the past 41 years. He attributes much of his success to having surrounded himself with his mastermind counterparts.
- [07:01]Aaron shares how he bought the pawnshop he was working for when he was still a student.
- [13:36]Aaron shares how his dad taught him the most valuable thing in life to treasure.
- [20:53]Stephan shares an excerpt from the book, How to Become a People Magnet. It’s about the importance of building rapport with other people.
- [27:43]Aaron’s opinion on tithing, and how it’s one of his interpretations of God opening the floodgates of heaven.
- [34:01]Aaron tells an interesting story of how he met Dave Ramsey and how he changed his business ever since the day they met.
- [41:49]Aaron points out how important it is to establish rapport with your “accountability buddies” or groups.
- [48:32]Aaron shares his mother’s saying about mindset and how he adopted it as his life mantra, “Can’t Couldn’t Do it, Could Did It All.”
- [56:32]How to develop the “I can do it” mindset and avoid having a fear of failure?
- [60:36]Follow Aaron Walker on his social media accounts and check out his website, themastermindplaybook.com, to learn more on how to build your profitable mastermind.
Thank you, Aaron, for joining us today.
Hey Stephan, how’s it going, buddy? Thank you for having me on your show.
Of course, and what a pleasure and honor, you’re kind of a big deal. We have multiple mutual friends that know both of us. We met through Genius Network, so we probably have quite a few mutual friends. I would love to start this interview by understanding a little bit about what inspired you to start all these businesses and to just keep sharpening the saw to use Stephen Covey‘s phrase or sharpening iron to use your phrase like that’s a lot. I’ve got three companies that I’ve started, two are currently running when I sold, and I would love to hear your story about this.
I’ll try to make a four-decade story short. I’ll take you way back real quick, and I’ll walk through this fast. When I was 13 years old, my dad asked me if I wanted to make a little money during the summer, and I said, “I’m in. If I make some money, sign me up,” and I went to work. He was a contractor, and I helped him during the summer, and at the end of that, I asked the gentleman that owned the business if I could have a job, and he gave me a job and fell in love with the business when I was 15. I decided that was what I wanted to do for a career, went to summer school and night school for about 18 months, and was able to graduate at the beginning of my junior year in high school. And so I started working every day and met two gentlemen with a lot of money, and I needed some money because I didn’t have any. And we started a company, and at 18 years old, I opened my first retail outlet. A year later, I got married to my childhood sweetheart, I had to wait for her to get out of school. And she was 18, I was 19, and I said, “Robin, we can’t mess this up. We’ve got to pay attention and do the right thing, because we may never get this opportunity again.” To make a long story short, we had a ten year $150,000 loan that we paid off in 36 months.
So now I’m 21 years old, I have a paid-for business, and I repeated that number of times. When I was 27, I sold out to a fortune 500, and Stephan, I was finished. It was like it was over, and I thought man, this is the American dream. I go from broke as a convict to being able to retire at 27, and that was amazing for about 18 months. And then after 18 months, I gained 50 pounds. I was getting in the bed in the middle of the day, and my wife woke me up one day, and she said, “This is not what I signed up for.” So I said, “Well, I don’t have any reason to get up. What am I going to do? You can’t watch Andy Griffith so much, and you can’t play with so much golf,” and she said, “Start another company, go to work for somebody, I don’t care what you do, but you gotta get out of the house.” Went back and bought the company I started with, and we built it four times the size it was over the next ten years, and it was just an amazing experience. And what gave me that determination was I watched my dad physically work manually, and I didn’t want to do that for a living, and so I said, there’s got to be a better way.
So I retired again at 40 years old, and unfortunately, during that time, and I’ll come back to this, there was a very tragic event in my life. I went on to retire again for five years and didn’t do anything. I went back and started a construction company, and we grew it to number one in Middle Tennessee for about three consecutive years. I retired at 50 for the third and final time, and my wife said I’ve retired more than the law allows. But I retired, and Dave Ramsey and Dan Miller and some of those guys encouraged me to coach. I started coaching, couldn’t handle all the people who were requesting me to coach them, and started a mastermind seven years ago. And today, we have 19 groups, and I’m probably having more fun today than I’ve ever had in my entire life because it’s radically transforming the lives of other people. So that is the real short version of 42 years.
It’s amazing to be able to live a life of impact and share your wisdom and create a safe space and environment for upskilling, growing, and contributing. That’s fabulous.Determination, grit, and perseverance. These are the traits that make a person successful. Click To Tweet
You know, one of the things that I want to pull out of the story is not anything to credit myself, but I want to encourage your audience that if I could do it, graduating two years early from high school, no formal education outside of high school, anybody can do it. I didn’t have any money. We came from a family that didn’t make over $15,000 a year in my dad’s life and lived in a 600 square foot house. We were very poor, but I had the determination, the grit, and the perseverance to excel. And I just want to encourage your audience today to not give up on your dreams and goals and surround yourself with people who are encouragers, get the naysayers out of your life, and focus on your goal. You can be very successful.
Yeah, very true. I’m curious, why did you buy back the company that you sold because you could have started a new company, you could have bought so many other companies.
I didn’t buy back the company I sold. I bought the company that I worked for when I was a student in school.
So the company was a fortune 500 that bought me out when I was 27. Then I took 18 months off, and then I went back and bought the company that I started with when I was 13 years old.
And so that’s the company that we built four times the size over the next ten year period.
Very cool. And what kind of business was that?
I want to encourage people today to think through what you’re giving up to be successful.
We were in the pawnshop business, and we owned very high-end upscale pawnshops, and we had stores that were doing 100 loans a day, five- and 10,000-square foot stores, very upscale stores. And it was a great business, still is a great business. The company that bought me out, 33 years ago, is still a tenant of mine. I kept the property, and they’re still my tenant, and so it’s been a really good experience working with them. But I want to touch on something that I didn’t elaborate and I would like to kind of dive into that just for a second. When I was 40 years old, things were really good in my life, I had a beautiful home, we had a vacation home, we had all the things, and I almost lost my family as a result of really focusing on the tangible possessions. I came home one day with a pocket full of money to a house full of strangers. And I want to encourage people today to think through what you’re giving up to be successful.
One morning, it was August the first 2001, I was headed to the office. And as I’ve said earlier, I was 40 years old at the time. And I was going down a four-lane highway, a gentleman was crossing the street to catch a local bus, he didn’t look my way, and I ran over and killed a pedestrian that day. In my life, I literally come to a screeching halt, and I pull over to the side of the road. And Stephan, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a horrific accident or anything traumatic in your life, but everything slows down. It’s like you’re watching it in slow motion, and I can still see it very vividly today. Pulled over to the side of the road and I was shaking, and I was alarmed, needless to say, and I was afraid to look back. Finally, I got the courage to look, and there was an elderly gentleman face down in the street, motionless, cars were stopping on both sides, it was a four-lane highway. And I got my cell phone finally got my composure enough to dial 911, and the police came. And I walked over, and he remained motionless, and I asked, “Was he okay?” and they said, “No, he’s got a severe head trauma.” And they asked me to go with the officer and get in the police car, and I did, and they loaded him on the gurney and put him in the ambulance. And that was on a Wednesday morning, seven-thirty in the morning.
They called me on Saturday at nine o’clock from Vanderbilt Trauma Unit in Nashville, and they said he didn’t make it. His name was Enrique, and he was from the Philippines, originally. He was 77 years old. It rocked my world. A couple of weeks later, I went to the office, and I just couldn’t handle the stress, I just literally could not handle it. It wasn’t my fault, people testified and said he ran out in front of me. So it wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, thank goodness I wasn’t on the phone, and thank goodness, it wasn’t my fault. But needless to say, it had a profound impact on me. And what I started thinking about was, what if I had been killed that day? What would my legacy have been? And that’s when I became troubled because I started thinking my legacy would have been this poor kid from Nashville, Tennessee, makes enough money to retire at age 27, and nobody cares.
And I thought, man, that is not what I want my legacy to be, I want my legacy to be, “Hey, Stephan’s life is better as a result of having known me,” and I said, “God, if you’ll give me another chance, I’ll look outward and not inward. I’ll start being the giver and not the taker.” And we’ve lived our lives that way for the past 20 years, and today, we’re five times more successful financially, and we’re 100 times more significant in the lives of other people. And it’s just a lot more enjoyable to live our lives looking at being the giver rather than the taker. And I just want your audience to think about how fragile life is and how it can be taken from us in a nanosecond. And live each day of your life, giving back, helping, inspiring, encouraging, and edifying other people, and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing much better.
First of all, thank you for sharing that vulnerable story. I’m so sorry for what you went through.
Thank you. I hate it, but you know without that story, I wouldn’t be here today sharing. Without that story, I probably would have lost my family because I was chasing more businesses, I was chasing more money. You know, give me a bigger house, give me something shinier, bigger, faster, more elaborate, give me another vacation home, I was chasing those things. And I had made money and success gods. And I would just say today that there’s nothing wrong with making money, I love to make money, I want to make more money, but I want to use it as a tool. I want to use it to live my life to do good things with it. I don’t want money to be my only focus. And you know, what’s funny is when I’ve taken my eyes off of the revenue, we’ve made more, and when we focus on the right things, I just think it’s very beneficial.
Yeah. So that’s wonderful that you’ve got that viewpoint and share it with so many people through your masterminds and your speaking and podcast interviews. What would be the top of mind profound impact that you’ve had for somebody because of your story, your challenges, and lessons?
You know, I do several podcast interviews, and I travel and speak. I’ve written a couple of books, one of them is called, View from the Top. And I would love for you to grab our book and take a look at it, not for the reason of me selling another book, but for the value that’s in there. I’m extremely vulnerable and raw in the book, and I tell my life story and tell you about some things that you can do and not do. But in one interview, a guy called me, and he lives in the northeast in a very major metropolitan city. And he said, “I heard your interview, I have a few questions for you.” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “I’m a lawyer, and I’ve won attorney of the year for five consecutive years, I’ve got money to burn.” He said, “I’ve got more houses everywhere. I’ve got everything. But I feel very hollow. I feel very unfulfilled.” And we talked through that, and he said, “Your story impacted my life. Because the money that I’ve got didn’t do for me what I thought it was going to do for me.”
It’s a good thing to make money, just keep it in the right priority.
And that’s the thing that I want to share with your audience today. And I don’t want in any way to demotivate your audience, I want you to make money. I hate it when people with money go, “Money’s not important.” I want you to go, “You liar. It is important. Let’s take it away from you, now we’ll see how important it is.” Nothing wrong with making money. I want a nice house and travel. Robin and I just got back from a two-week trip. I want to travel, I want to give money away, I want to help, and I want to start businesses, but I don’t want the money to own me. I don’t want it to be my sole motivation, and that’s where that guy was at. So I want to tell you, go for it because broke people can’t help people financially. So it’s a good thing to make money, just keep it in the right priority. We need to prioritize our priorities. And I think where I’ve been instrumental in being able to help people is saying, “Hey, I’ve been there, I’ve got the T-shirt, I’ve done it. I’ve done all the businesses sold out and all those kinds of things. It just doesn’t give you the satisfaction you think it’s going to.” And those things, tangible possessions, it’s fun for a few minutes, and then that gets old. Really where I want to kind of take this to is what is valuable, and that’s relationships.
My dad was a master of relationships. People loved my dad, and Stephan, you would have loved my dad, because he loved people, he loved to be around you. He was an encourager, he was always laughing or telling a joke, he was fun to be around. And when my dad died in 2006, I stood there greeting the folks coming to pay their condolences, and it was an hour and a half wait. The line went down the hall out the door and around the parking lot around the building to get in. This is somebody that didn’t have anything personally, a grown man up to 75 years old, crying in his casket, saying, “Let me tell you what your Dad did for me.” “Let me tell you how your dad helped me.” “Let me tell you how your dad was always an encouragement to my kids.” When my dad was buried the next day, there was standing room only. They had to open up every room in a funeral home, not because of his wealth, not because of his possessions, but because of his relationship.
That’s what I want to encourage your audience today to think about, what is it that you’re pursuing? Go for the money, that’s good, I’ve said that three times, but think about the relationships, think about the impact that you’re having. And you asked me what is the biggest impact that I’ve had personally, we have almost 200 people in our mastermind groups today. And I’ve done several speeches, and I’ve been around many places, talking and selling books and podcast interviews, and invariably, people come up to me and say, “Thank you for giving me the perspective on relationships.” Those are the things that matter. Two weeks ago, Robin and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and we’ve had our highs, we’ve had our lows, but the thing that matters the most is my wife and my children and my grandchildren, and then my business. And I just want people to think through what’s important in your life.
And I learned this lesson from Kabbalah classes, and that is if you think about all the different aspects of life that you might be chasing, such as business, career, financial success, your family, your intimate relationship or your spouse, health and fitness and all that, all that sort of stuff. It’s hard to juggle all those things at once. But here’s the thing, if you think of this as a prism, and that on the other side of the prism where all the colors come out, that’s where you’ll see fitness, business, career, financial success, your spouse, etc. But you see the other end of the prism is where the white light comes in, instead of chasing after all the colors, and then you drop things and you don’t succeed with all of it, chase after the white light. So the light of the creator, the light of God, of your higher power, that’s where it just encompasses all of it, and you get all the success.Don't give up on your dreams and goals. Surround yourself with people who are encouragers. Get the naysayers out of your life, and focus on your goals. Click To Tweet
That’s a great analogy. I’ll use that. I’ll give you credit twice for it, and then I’ll take it as my own.
That’s funny. It’s not mine that I can give credit. I have to give credit to my Kabbalah teacher, David Ghiyam, who was on this podcast as a past guest.
That’s very cool. I love that analogy. I love that picture. You know the way that we’re able to daily, weekly, monthly, and annually help people is through our mastermind groups because you surround yourself with trusted advisors that are unbiased that you meet with on a weekly basis. And then they hold you accountable to do the things that you say you’re going to do. They challenge you to raise the bar, they point out your Achilles’ heel, they compliment your superpowers, and then they point out possibly a blind spot that can be catastrophic in our lives if we’re not careful. It’s hard to see our blind spots. So for two decades now, every week, I’ve been in a mastermind group, I attribute the vast amount of my success to those trusted advisors.
I don’t know if you’re like this, but I get out of the shower every day with three new ideas. It’s like, “Hey, I know I’m going to do this,” and I would go into the mastermind group, and I would share one of them. Dave Ramsey would go, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” or Dan Miller may say, “Oh, wait a minute, if we tweak that a little bit, or we introduce you to this resource” or “Maybe your own to something.” But see, when we are alone, we only have one perspective. No matter how hard we try to see things multifaceted, we can’t. And so the mastermind group brings a new perspective. I talked to Jeff Hoffman, the guy that started Priceline. And he said that 10% of everything that he reads daily has nothing to do with anything that he’s interested in, yet, he said, ironically enough, 90% of his best ideas have come out of that 10% of his reading that had nothing to do with what he was doing because it’s a different perspective. And I like to think about masterminds being the same way. Every meeting is not a home run, but somebody may say one thing, one introduction, one resource that changes the paradigm shift of your life. And so that’s the way we keep transforming lives, is by meeting every week.
That’s great. We’ll come back to that in a second. But I wanted to add this one idea that I learned years ago, reading this tiny little book called How to Be a People Magnet, one of those little pocketbooks. And the concept from that that has been influential for me is scrambling, where it relates this idea of 10% of your reading being completely outside of your normal interests. If you do stuff that is not that interesting to you, just a little bit enough that you could have a conversation with somebody passionate about it, that gives you so much opportunity to build rapport and relatedness with these different people.
I have very little interest in playing golf, but I have played a few times, just so that I can have something to talk about with somebody who’s an avid golfer. The same thing with different kinds of other sports, I like individual sports, not like team sports, but I can share some conversation with somebody passionate about football because I understand enough about it. So that concept of scrambling stretches you outside your comfort zone and gives you something that you can converse with others and build that network and relatedness with all these folks who might have very little in common with you.
You know what’s good, and I love the way you’ve described it because that’s kind of what masterminds do for you. It’s constantly stretching you, constantly challenging you, and that’s what that does, right? You’re not a big golfer, but you know enough jargon that you can carry on an intelligent conversation. And who knows, you may enjoy it at some point.
Right. I might have made an assumption that was wrong because I thought that’s not something I’m going to enjoy, and then I end up loving it.
Right. And so we’ve got to keep expounding and stretching ourselves, and that’s the way we grow. If you’re not stretching, you’re not growing. So great point, thank you for sharing that.
Yeah. So let’s talk a bit more about masterminds. I’m a connoisseur of fine masterminds, I typically sign up to at least four or five at a time. Right now, I’m in Genius Network, JVMM Joint Venture Mastermind, Metal.
Dove, you’re in with dove. I’m in that group.
When we are alone, we only have one perspective. No matter how hard we try to see things multifaceted, we can’t.
What else? Is that how I met you? I was through JVMM, and it wasn’t through Genius Network. That’s right.
You need to be in my mastermind. We’re gonna get you in there. But anyway,
So is that six? That’s a lot. It feels overwhelming as I’m describing all of them. But they all provide different benefits, and a different network, and different inspiration, and as you said, you just are prolific with ideas, you’ll just have three in the shower, and not every good idea is worthy of seeing through. So let’s assume that it was a good idea, Dave Ramsey said, “I liked that idea, smart.” It doesn’t deserve necessarily to get seen through to fruition.
I learned this 20 some years ago when I had PDMA as a client, Product Development Management Association. And that product development is meant to be a funnel, not a tunnel. Not every product that starts at the beginning should be seen through to fruition in other words. And that stuck with me because you can have a great idea that you turn into a prototype, and you’re getting manufacturing lined up, or maybe it’s like an information product or something, you’re 90% of the way there. And then you know what times have changed, and the markets shifted, I’ve got a better idea that is ten times more potential, let’s kill off this product, even though we’re 90% of the way through to the end.
The other thing is, is you may be the creator developer, but not the person that brings it to fruition. And it could be something worthy of handing off to the next individual, hiring a competent person to finish it, or just selling the concept or the idea. We got to be smart enough to know when to cut ties. People say, “Never never give up.” That’s not necessarily always true. There’s a time where you go, “Hey, the cost of this is not going to be worth the outcome.” So we’ve got to relinquish it and move on. That’s why you surround yourself with other people, and they can help you make those decisions.
So giving up, not much a great connotation with that, but deciding, that’s where leaders occupy, right? So deciding, the root of that word “cide” like homicide or suicide or whatever is to kill off. Well, deciding is to kill off of the options and go with one, and if you are very intentional and make powerful decisions, you’ll have an intentional and powerful life. So saying no to something means that you can say yes to something else.
Indecision kills me too. I’m a high D on the DISC profile, as I said earlier, before we hit the record button, it’s to fire the gun and ride the bullet. And for me, it’s sometimes ready fire aim. And so I’m ready to go, nothing paralyzes me more than indecision. And it’s like, hey, let’s go. If it doesn’t work, we’ll do something else, and we got to keep things moving. My friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
He’s been a guest on this show.
Has he? He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve been talking for a long time, and I’ve interviewed him several times in our mastermind group, and Dave used to bring him into our group when we were meeting in person. As matter of fact, we’re working on a project together now. And so he’s a great guy, I love that guy. He’s everybody’s Rabbi. I love Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
He’s fabulous. I loved interviewing him. So approachable, but his wisdom is super profound. We had a great conversation on the podcast episode about money being energy, and about tithing and all that.
He says that they’re certificates of appreciation, that’s what money is. And we’re doing people a disservice by not selling them a great product. And so I love that guy. We could talk forever about him. He’s a good guy, your audience if they haven’t checked out his book, Thou Shall Prosper. It is a great read, and I highly recommend it.
Very cool. So while we’re on this topic of Rabbi Daniel, what is your position on tithing? Like, what percentage? What frequency? How do you pick which organizations to tithe to? I’d love to hear more about your thought process.
First of all, I’m Christian by faith. And so if you go back and study that and you do the math, it’s more like 30%, not 10%. I personally since I was nine years old, and I’ll be 60 on my next birthday, have given 10% of my gross income to our local church. Now, the scripture says bring it to the storehouse, it depends on what your definition of the storehouse is. I choose to believe the storehouse is the place of worship where I tend. A lot of people say it’s to the Christian faith. So we won’t get into debating what the storehouse is.
But it’s not Amazon.
It’s not Amazon, in my opinion. For me, it’s our local church, and it is 10% of our gross income. And I think that’s the place to start, and I don’t think it’s the place to finish. And how to decide there are other charitable causes that we give to, but the first 10% of the gross income goes to my local church.
Cool. And one thing that I have heard from biblical teachers is that that’s one thing in the Bible where it’s like God’s challenging or offering to prove to you his works.
The third chapter of Malachi, verse 10.
There you go.
God said that don’t rob me of what is owed to me, I’m paraphrasing. And then it says, if you do not believe this to be true, test me. And it’s the only place in scripture that God offers an opportunity for you to test him. And I’ll just be very honest with you. It’s been a very regimented, informal part of my personal life, and, for 51 years, I’ve given 10% of our gross income. And I assure you, I’ve done a lot more with 90% than I could have with 100%. And I’m a firm believer that God does bless us because if the God of the universe says test me, I don’t need to test him. He’s pretty confident that he’s going to bless you. And he said that he’d open the floodgates of heaven. Now, I don’t know exactly what that is, I don’t necessarily believe that that’s necessarily monetarily or for possessions, but it could be. But it also could be sanity, it also could be peace, it could be a state of mind, I don’t know what that is. And everyone has to interpret that for themselves. But I will point out that it is the only place in scripture where he asked us to test him.Live each day of your life by helping, inspiring, encouraging, and edifying other people. You'll enjoy what you're doing so much better. Click To Tweet
And I’ve seen amazing abundance come from tithing. It’s cool.
It’s a great exercise. It’s a form of worship. I’m a firm believer and thank you for asking.
Another thing that I would love to hear your take on is this concept that money is energy. So, if you imagine, for example, you’re at the gas station, and there’s this little bowl of pennies. Take a penny, leave a penny, with Coronavirus that might not be such a popular thing these days, but this was years ago that I learned this from one of my Kabbalah teachers. So if you don’t consider the pennies in your pocket, those loose change to have any value, you’re disrespecting the energy that’s contained within that money. There’s the same quality of energy in a penny as there is in a million dollars. It’s just the quantity, and the size of the vessel is different.
So if you say “Here, you take the pennies,” or you step on a penny or you just walk right past it or whatever. It’s good luck or good fortune, however, you want to position to pick up that penny, rather than to just step over it because you’re acknowledging the quality of the energy that’s contained within that penny. It’s not about the monetary value, and it’s about what the money can do. The energy contained within it when it’s potential energy that can be turned into a school. I’m a board member of Impact Network, and we build schools in Zambia and operate them, the e-learning and all that sort of stuff, really cool. For $20,000, you can build a school in rural Africa, and that’s amazing.
We built those in Brazil.
There’s the same quality of energy in a penny as there is in a million dollars.
So cool. I’d love to hear your take on this money is energy.
I’ve not thought of it in light of energy. For me, money is a tool that we’ve assigned a value to, and I don’t necessarily look at it as energy. There’s a worth associated with that, just like there’s a worth associated with anything. To be honest, I could make up something, but I don’t have an opinion about the energy aspect of it or not, to be honest with you.
Alright. So Rabbi Daniel is a friend of yours, and Dave Ramsey, of course, as well. You mentioned him multiple times, and he was a profound impact for you over the course of years, the other mastermind members as well, but I would imagine Dave Ramsey in particular, right?
Let me tell you that story real quick. When I was in my 40s or late 30s, I was headed to the office, and there was a chamber of commerce breakfast. And this had been 28 years ago now, and I stopped there, and there was a guy there talking about a show he was going to start called The Money Game, and Roy Matlock was the co-host. And I went up, introduced myself to him, and it was Dave Ramsey, and I invited him down the street after the Chamber of Commerce breakfast to see a new location we just built. And he came down and loved it, and he said, “This is great. I’ve got one radio show here in Nashville, we just started, and I’d love for you to be a sponsor.” And I said, “No. I only knew who you are. I have only heard of you, and you want me to sponsor your show?” And he said, “If you try me for a week, I’ll give you a free week of advertising.” I thought, well, I don’t have anything to lose on that. So I did it for three days, and people, literally, Stephan, were pouring into our business. And I called him, and I said, “This is insane. I’m not even sure I understand what your show is even about, but let’s talk.” So we did, and I said, “I think I want to continue the advertising.” He said, “Well if you do, you’ve got to sign an annual contract.” And I said, “We went from free three days ago, and now you’re going to make me sign an annual contract.” I think he was bluffing me, to be honest with you, but I agreed to it. And so I signed an annual contract, and then that continued for 21 consecutive years. And it changed our business, I can’t even begin to tell you.
Today, Dave is on 700 radio stations, they have about 12 million listeners, and it’s just doing phenomenal. I got to watch that up close, and we built a very close friendship. A couple of years after that, I was at The Curb Center watching MercyMe play, and Dave was there, I didn’t even realize he was there. And he came up to me, and he said, “Hey, I want you to consider joining my mastermind group.” And I said, “You’re what?” He said, “We’re starting a mastermind group, and I want you to join.” And I said, “I don’t even know what a mastermind group is,” and he said, “Just come to my office next Wednesday at seven o’clock in the morning, and I’ll introduce you to the guys that we’ve invited.” So I did, and I didn’t want to go. And the reason I didn’t want to go, I know what kind of hard charger Dave is, and I knew that I was going to be up against the wall, and I knew he was going to press hard. He’s a high D like I am. I knew I was going to have to be vulnerable. Well, Stephan, I didn’t want all those guys to know that I didn’t know everything. I didn’t want those guys to know that everything in my marriage wasn’t perfect, and everything about being a dad wasn’t perfect. And so I listened for two or three months, I was kind of quiet, and they were all sharing.
Ken Abraham is another guy that’s in the group, he’s written about 100 books, and he sat to my left. And Dan Miller, 48 Days to the Work You Love, was in the group, he lives here in Nashville as well. And Jeff Moseley, he owned INO records which MercyMe was one of his groups. Ironically enough, when I was at the MercyMe concert listening to him. And so I got to do life with these guys every day, and there was a constant challenge. And I even told them at the time, and they said, “We’re going to read a book every month,” and I said, “I don’t like to read.” And they said, “I don’t care if you like to read or not, you’re going to read.” And so now I’m an avid reader, I read, I don’t know how many books a year, and I love it because of the challenge. In the things that I wanted to do, he’s helped me through. Dan’s helped me. Dan was my mentor for about 20 years and encouraged me to coach. But the point of the mastermind groups is kind of like having your board of directors. It’s having unbiased people that don’t have any skin in the game that they can tell you the truth, and they can hold you accountable for doing the things that you want to do. So I’ll just say, Stephan, it’s radically changed my life because I had people that cared about me enough to call me out.
I’ll tell you a quick story. I was at the Ace Hardware years ago, and I was in a dark spot. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a dark spot, but this was a really low point in my life. Every week I would talk about this low point, I couldn’t get over it, I just couldn’t get over it. So I got this phone call from James Rao, some of your audience may be familiar with him. He’s a very prominent speaker who has traveled all over the world speaking, best storyteller I’ve ever heard. And he said, “Hey, Big A, you got a minute?” a And I said, “Yeah, hold on for a second.” I walked out in the parking lot, and I knew it was going to be either good or bad, I didn’t know which. And the reason I knew that is because we never called each other on the weekend, we always talk during the week, but we respected each other’s privacy for our families on the weekend. He said, “I was praying for you this morning, and God gave me a word for you,” and I said, “Really?” And he said, “Yeah, but I want to start by saying, first of all, you’re wearing the hell out of everybody in our group.” And I started laughing, well, he didn’t. And I said, “Excuse me?” he said, “We’re getting sick and tired of hearing about this position that you’re in, and you just talk about it, but you don’t do anything.” He said, “I was reading in the book of Isaiah this morning, where God said, ‘Take the chains from around your neck and move on.'” He said, “It is time you were moving on. I’ll see you. I gotta go,” and hung up. I was so mad, I said, the audacity of this guy calling me up, ruining my Saturday, telling me that I’m wearing the hell out of everybody in the group, and then he just hung up.
Well, then I started thinking about it, and I said, you know, the truth is this guy loves me enough to tell me the truth. So Wednesday morning, I went to the Mastermind group meeting, and I’m a big guy, Stephan, you haven’t met me in person. I’m a 6’4″, weighs 235, I’m a big guy. He was about 5’8″, weight about 50, he’s a pretty small guy. And I walked around the table, he thought I was going to hit him, and I leaned over and I hugged him, tears filled our eyes. And I said, “I just want to thank you,” and it changed my life. I was able to say, “You’re right, and I’ve got to move on.” And I was able to get out of that bad spot because a guy that loved me enough challenged me and pushed me to move on. See, that’s what we need to do in life today. We need to challenge each other, and we need to rally around them. But you can’t do that if you’re not spending time with people, because he wouldn’t have the permission to say that to me unless he was investing in me on a weekly basis. I wouldn’t take that from somebody that didn’t know me.
So I just want to share with your audience today, who do you have in your life that is holding you accountable? That’s calling you out? That’s edifying you? That’s stopping you when you’re going down a bad path? Or that’s propelling you forward when you need some motivation? So that’s my message for you guys today is to go forward, I can teach you to make money, I can do all those things. But the real culprit is people in your life that can help take you because if you haven’t been in a bad spot, you’re gonna be. You’re either just coming out or going in, and it’s the way life is, it’s just the hands that we get dealt. And I want people around me and I spend an inordinate amount of time building these relationships very intentionally. People ask me all the time, what would you tell your younger self, and the thing that I would do sooner is to build relationships faster. I would intentionally call people and build relationships and even in the mastermind today, I train people to do that, I help people understand how to take time, how to take the time to call in, to check on, to text, to send videos, to write emails, to call people, and build that form and that type of relationship. It’s just going to pay huge dividends later.
Yeah. Have you read the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi?
Yes, I have. It’s a great book.
Yeah, he talks about some of those concepts. And I noticed you mentioned the word challenge multiple times. So I’ve had accountability groups, accountability buddies, and so forth, and the difference between an accountability buddy or group and somebody who will challenge you, I think, has a lot to do with that rapport and relatedness and vulnerability that you establish with somebody. So I’m in another group, a coaching group, called Managing Happiness. And that group run by David Henzel has accountability buddies assigned.
I’ve never spoken on a one-on-one call with my accountability buddy, and he’s not been accountable. And that’s fine, but it makes sense in the context of this conversation, now that I’m looking back on it because he’s got nothing invested in me and vice versa. It’s not like we’re friends or we worked through some issues together or had some tough spots that we help each other through, and now, we want to help challenge each other. So this idea of challenging requires the rapport and the relatedness that just being assigned an accountability buddy that you don’t even know, can’t provide.
No, not at all. Yesterday, we were on a call, and one of the guys is a super guy. I love this guy. He owns two very successful companies, and he’s been struggling with his weight since I met him three years ago. And he talks about it all the time. So I thought recently because I’m kind of a get in your face kind of guy, and I tried that, and it didn’t work. It didn’t work for him at all. So I listened to him for a few more months, and I thought, well, I understand his personality better now, I’ll try a different approach. And so I called him yesterday after our meeting, and I said, “Hey, man, you got a minute?” And he goes, “Yeah,” I said, “I was thinking about you, and was praying for you this morning.” He said, “What?” And I said, “You said that your motivation for losing the weight is so you could spend time with your grandkids?” He said, “Yeah,” I said, “Well, you got diabetes, too.” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “You know, you’re not gonna get to spend time with your grandkids unless you get your weight under control.” And I said, “I’ve got a guy that I think can help you because I care about you. You’re one of the few guys related to weight that I’m taking a personal interest in because I like you as an individual, and I want to know how I can help you.”
The whole conversation changed. He said, “You just pissed me off. But now I feel like you’re interested in me.” I said, “I am because I care about you.” And it was a different conversation. See, if I hadn’t been spending time with him, I wouldn’t have known the approach. So the only way we can help people is by getting to know them. I coach people all over the world, and there’s not a blanket that fits everybody, right? You can’t just lay a covering over something that you might say you’ve got to know who they are, their personality, the way they think, what their objectives are, their goals, their family, the way they were brought up, their interest, where they’re headed. You’ve got to know those things, and then you go, Oh, I think I can help you and here’s the solution. But if I just were to give or offer a suggestion, that probably wouldn’t work for various reasons. And everything points back to the relationship, and we’re all wired differently, we’re all unique. And until we spend time with each other, we don’t know your uniqueness.There's nothing wrong with making money, I love to make money. I want to make more money. The difference is I only use it as a tool to do good things for others. Click To Tweet
From this conversation, I know that you’re high D in the DISC profile. So prescribing certain things for you to do, like I know a lot about SEO, that’s my area of expertise, so I could say, “Hey, you need to claim your knowledge panel. Why haven’t you done that?” Well, that’s just a prescription, but you’re high D, so that’s not a fit. If I challenge you and say, “You know what, I got something here. That’s gonna be a fun challenge for you.” “I challenge you by our next conversation, on Friday, to have that done.” And now, you’d be like, “I’m on it.”
I gotta do it because you’re the second person that’s mentioned that to me, and so I’ve got to see to it that that gets done. Like this challenge, I’m in. Like if we’re playing, you mentioned golf, I play golf, and I want to win. And if we’re playing a team sport, you want me on your team, because we’re gonna win, we’re gonna take this thing home. And so yeah, everybody’s different, but you can’t know those things until we spend time together, and that’s all the more reason for spending time together.
Yeah, I’m curious, besides DISC, what are some of the assessments, personality tests and things that you’ve done that you like?
Yeah, the Enneagram was pretty good, I like that. I’m a challenger, and so I’m sure you would know that I think it’s an 8 on that, and then the DISC. There’s so many of them out there, I’ve done various ones over the years, but you can kind of peg me and all of them, if you know you’re a high D, you’re a challenger.
I’ve not done that.
You should do that one.
Amazing. I learned about it from Strategic Coach.
Send me an email and remind me what that is.
Our soul wasn’t designed to take as much information as we’re receiving. We’ve got to be careful about the amount of information that we take in, and we need to be sure.John Eldredge
Ok, I’ll do that for you. And another one that I learned from Strategic Coach and Genius Network is Kolbe. So instead of cognitive, it’s conative. That’s been powerful.
I did that one recently, and I’d have to pull it up to see what it was. But I did that, and it was pretty fun, it was good. A financial advisor is the one that sent me that test, and I did it, and then he told me based on that, some of the things that I would be interested in the market, things I wouldn’t be interested in and the reason that I would be interested in those things. And it was spot on, and it’s amazing really when you look at those tests and how accurate they are.
I love that. Oh, and the Fascinate® Test, that’s another one. I like that. Sally Hogshead, how the world sees you versus how you see the world. So instead of most personality tests are about how you see the world, this one is how the world sees you, what was your unique advantage and so forth. Anyways, so that’s fun, I was just curious about that. And one last little area I would love to learn a bit more about. You said that you grew up very poor, and it was a challenge in your childhood. So what were some of the things that allowed you to kind of break free from the constraints that you had as a poor child?
Yes, it’s a mindset and tribute to the ability to push through from my mom. My mom was a big encourager, and my mom had a little saying, and I’ve adopted it. My life mantra is “Can’t Couldn’t Do It… And Could Did It All.” And my mom would say that on a daily basis to me, she would never allow me to say “can’t” “I can’t do it.” She said, “You’re going to try, you might not be able to do it, but you’re going to try it.” And then when she forced me to try things, it would work, and then it would build my self-confidence. And so today, not in an arrogant way, I don’t mean to be arrogant, but today, I believe, well, I can do it. Just give me a little time, I’ll figure it out. And it gives me the ability to push through. And the other thing that she helped me on was, don’t worry about what other people think, because when people say it can’t be done, what they’re saying is they can’t do it. And so for me, that gave me a lot of self-confidence.
And then the other thing is grit. Angela Duckworth talks a lot about grit, and now I’ll make an intelligent decision to stop something, but naysayers I don’t allow around me. I allow people to tell me why something might not work, but just to say it won’t be done. And I’m very selective about the people that I spend the most time with, and I’m very careful about my personal friends. And we don’t allow gossip, and I want people around my children and my grandchildren that are encouragers that edify, that help that pours into. And so we’re very strategic, about how we live our lives and who we spend the time with. I turned the news off 20 years ago, and I’ve watched it recently because of the things that I’m having to deal with as it relates to running our business. But I just can’t take any more bombings and killings and murders and all this political rift that’s going on. I just can’t. It takes you so long to work through that to get over that. I’d rather be filling my mind with positive things and things that are instrumental and things that are moving the needle. And how I can help other people and projects that I’m working on, and it’s just a time suck, and it’s not going to be something I can change personally.
20 years ago, Dan Miller encouraged me to turn the news off, and we did. And so that’s been helpful, because what is the point in taking in all these bits of information? Two weeks ago, I interviewed John Eldredge, and John came on our group, one of the masterminds, and he’s written 20 or 30 books, but Wild at Heart was one that he’s noted for, and he wrote another book. He said, “Our soul wasn’t designed to take as much information as we’re receiving. We’ve got to be careful about the amount of information that we take in, and we need to be sure.” Daniel Lapin is another one, he and I were talking about that, we were talking about TV, he said, “Aaron, what you need to do is go home and unbolt your TV and put it in your boat and drive out to the middle of the lake and throw it overboard. There’s no use to have a TV in your home.” And so we talked, we had a good laugh about that, but the point is, I think we’ve got to be very careful. And if you surround yourself with the right people, Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” that’s very true. And so we’re just really selective, who we are around and what we do. And that feeds that ability to develop yourself worth, and your aspirations, and it encourages you. It’s living your life intentionally, not reactive, but proactive.
We’re very big on planning, we look ahead, we do an exercise called to come as you will be, and we will forecast out three to five years, and we’ll get up before our mastermind group. And we’ll say, share with us as though it were 2023 and you’ve got a list of things that you’ve got to go down. I did that exercise in 2015, I did come as you will be in 2020. I’ve still got six months left. But the goals that I had established in 2015, we have at least doubled every one of the goals, and there’s one that I could do that I haven’t done yet. But it’s because we established a plan, and I went before a group and said, “This is what I’m going to accomplish. Now we go back, and we establish a plan to accomplish that goal.” Most people and this is sad, don’t even know what they want. I could come to most people and say if there were no strategic persons around you, and you had to decide, there were no financial restraints, and there were no time elements, what would you do tomorrow with your life? And most people can’t answer that question, and they just want bigger, better, shinier, faster, just give me more. And when I start diving in and asking the questions, “Why do you want more? What are you going to do with it? What’s your life gonna look like in five years? How much money do you want to be making? Where do you want to go on vacation? Do you want a job that is location independent? Or do you want a retail outlet?” “I don’t know, I haven’t thought that much about it.”
Well, how are you going to know when you’ve won? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, and you don’t know what your life is going to look like. Now, there are pivot points, and there are times that we have to change to life’s curves, and we have to adapt. But I promise you, if you develop that strategy, you’ll be way ahead. You may not reach your goals entirely, but you’ll be way further ahead than you would without it. And so we’ve just lived our life very intentionally to answer your question.
That’s fabulous. So I love what you’re talking about in terms of turning off the TV and disconnecting from the news and so forth. I do the same thing. I spend no time-consuming news or hardly any time because it’s just gonna wreck havoc on my biology. I’m gonna have high cortisol levels, adrenaline and all that.
I’ve read that 30 minutes of negative news takes six hours to get it out of your cognitive thought process. Six hours for 30 minutes of news. I’ve got a lot better things to do with six hours of my time than to be trying to weigh away negative news.When people say money is not important, they’re wrong. Broke people can't help people financially. Click To Tweet
Tim Ferriss, who I’ve interviewed on the show, talks about the low information diet, and I believe wholeheartedly in that. I also believe in focusing on the light rather than focusing on the darkness, on the void, on what’s missing, you focus on the light, and that connects you more to God and your higher purpose and gives you a much better perspective. And also find the good in everything, if you’re just so entrenched in the negative news, how do you find the good?
Yeah, it’s impossible.
And I also loved what you were saying about the inspirational things you learn from your mom and like those different expressions and stuff. I’m curious, do you have anything written down as a post-it note or something on your monitor?
You can’t see it, but right at the left of my monitor, there’s a piece of wood that’s 36 inches long, and it says “Can’t Couldn’t Do It… And Could Did It All” and under it says “Nanny Lu.” That’s what my grandkids call my mom, Nanny Lu. And in my book, the first chapter is titled “Can’t Couldn’t Do It… And Could Did It All.” And so these little things that we grow up with, these little inspirations have more of an impact than people realize. And the thing that I would kind of like to leave your audience with today, the thing that I think is important is the mindset. If we can’t see it in our minds, and we don’t believe it ourselves, why should other people believe in us? So I would just encourage you to develop a mindset that you can do these things.
The last thing that I want to share is the fear of failure. And people talk to me all the time I say, “Why don’t you do that?” “Well, I’m afraid I’ll fail.” My children used to say that when they were young, they’d say, “Dad, I want to try out for cheerleading or basketball or tennis, but I’m afraid that I won’t make the team,” I said, “Well, one thing I know for sure, if you don’t try out, you won’t make the team, first of all. Second of all, the failure is in not trying, not succeeding.” And so I just say fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure, and develop a mindset of I can do it and you too can have equal or greater success and significance than we’ve been able to enjoy ourselves.
That’s great. And I don’t have a piece of wood with an inspirational phrase on it. But I do have a post-it note, it’s right here on my monitor, and it says, “Would Richard Branson be doing this?”
We always have to be delegating things out and doing only what we can do, right?
And not operate in your zone of competence, but operate in your zone of genius. And when we allow ourselves to do that we can be very, very successful.
Yeah. And that was a Gay Hendricks that talks about that.
Yeah. The Big Leap.
I want to mention one other thing. People started calling me several years ago, and they said, “No one has ever scaled masterminds like you’re doing it. How are you doing it?” and I would give them a few tips. And one guy called me from Dubai, and he said, “Hey, I see all these groups you’ve got, would you coach me to do that?” and I didn’t want to do it, because I knew it was gonna take some time. And I said, “No, I don’t want to do it.” He goes, “I would pay you nicely if you would do that.” And so I threw a number out knowing that he wouldn’t do it, and he said, “Where do I send the money?” and I’m like, “Huh.” So he sent the money, and I coached him, and another guy called me the same scenario. My daughter is the COO of our company, and she walked in my office after that, and she said, “Dad, we’ve done something amazing here by scaling these masterminds, and coaches are interested in it because coaching is not a business, coaching is a high paying job.” Mastermind groups are a business because I just left for a two-week vacation. I had more money when I got back than when I left. It’s saleable because there’s money in perpetuity. It’s an asset coaching is not. So I scaled my coaching back and focused on the mastermind groups. So she said, “Why don’t we build a blueprint or a playbook and teach people how to do it?”
Well, I didn’t want to do that either because I knew how difficult that was going to be. But we had all the systems and processes in place that we run our business with. So it took us a year, our whole team, we hired a product developer, copywriters, editors, professional videographers, and we put together the Mastermind Playbook and in that we teach you to grow and scale mastermind groups. So if you’re interested in that, and you don’t want to join a group, but you’re a coach or a thought leader, we’ve made it our primary income, and it’s a seven-figure business for us. I’m not necessarily saying that you will do that with it, but it could very easily with two or three groups be a high six-figure business, and we’ve got a dozen or more groups that I’m not even participating in, that we do a revenue share, and I teach you how to do that with other people. So we’ve laid the framework out, and it’s a very methodical hundred tools, there are 34 professional videos in it, and I’ll walk you through every aspect of building your mastermind group. And I think it’s a very, very good tool. So if you’re interested in that, themastermindplaybook.com.
Very good. Alright. And if folks wanted to follow you on social media, read your blog posts?
The easiest thing to do is to go to viewfromthetop.com, and you can find everything you need there, including my phone number and email, however you want to get a hold of us. All of our social media platforms are there, and I would love to connect with you. I’d love to entertain the idea of joining one of our masterminds, coaching, or possibly getting involved in The Mastermind Playbook and starting your own.
Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Aaron, this was fabulous and inspiring and thought-provoking. Lots of wisdom that you shared. I appreciate it.
Thank you. I enjoyed our time together. Thank you.
Thank you. And now listeners, please take a moment and choose something, maybe two or three things that you are going to act based on what you’ve learned. It’s great information, but information that’s turned into action is where all the juices.
- Aaron Walker
- LinkedIn – Aaron Walker
- Twitter – Aaron Walker
- Instagram – Aaron Walker
- Youtube – Aaron Walker
- Mastermind Playbook
- View from the Top
- How to Be a People Magnet
- Thou Shall Prosper
- 48 Days to the Work You Love
- Never Eat Alone
- Wild at Heart
- The Big Leap
- David Ghiyam – previous episode
- Rabbi Daniel Lapin – previous episode
- David Henzel – previous episode
- Debra Levine – previous episode
- Sally Hogshead – previous episode
- Tim Ferriss – previous episode
- Genius Network
- Stephen Covey
- Andy Griffith
- Dave Ramsey
- Dan Miller
- Jeff Hoffman
- JVMM (Joint Venture Mastermind)
- Strategic Coach
- Abundance 360
- DISC profile
- Malachi 3:1o
- Impact Network
- The Money Game
- Roy Matlock
- James Rao
- Managing Happiness
- Fascinate® Test
- Angela Duckworth
- John Eldredge
- Jim Rohn
- Richard Branson
- James Schramko
- Silver Circle
- Gay Hendricks
Checklist of Actionable Takeaways
Discover my purpose in life by having the courage to explore what I really want to do. Let my mission be something that impacts other people’s lives as well.
Carry the values of determination, grit, and perseverance on my journey to living a successful life. Understand that nothing great comes easy.
Don’t focus on tangible possessions. Think deeply about what I’m giving up to be successful. Sometimes the road to success is lonely, make sure I know what I’m setting myself up for.
Give more and take less. Put my talents in fair use by helping others. Either use them to teach others or volunteer for similar causes.
Understand that money isn’t evil, and being rich isn’t greedy. Money is a tool that can help me do good things for myself and others.
Learn to prioritize things. List what I need to prioritize in a day. Make sure I accomplish my goals by the end of day. On another note, list my top three long-term priorities and let these lead my day-to-day habits.
Invest the most in relationships. At the end of a man’s life, it’s not the riches he’s made that people talk about. It’s about how much he meant to them when he was still alive.
Join mastermind groups. Broaden my knowledge and understanding of how the world works to be of better service to others.
Choose the people I surround myself with wisely. When we’re alone, we only have one perspective. It’s so much better to have companions who keep me level-headed.
Check Aaron Walker’s website for more information about his mastermind program, and grab a copy of his book, View from the Top.
About Aaron Walker
Aaron Walker has founded more than a dozen companies over the past 41 years. He attributes much of his success to having surrounded himself with his mastermind counterparts. Aaron spent a decade meeting weekly with Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Ken Abraham, and five other amazing entrepreneurs. Aaron is the founder of Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind that now hosts 15 groups with National and International members. Aaron is the author of View From The Top, a must-read to fully understand how to live a life of success and significance. Also, the founder of The Mastermind Playbook an incredible resource for starting, running, and scaling masterminds. Aaron lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Robin of 40 years and he has two incredible daughters and five beautiful grandchildren.
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