Category Archives for Uncategorized

005 – We Need to Play with Gary Ware

In this episode, I chat with Gare Ware, a play consultant by day, and an improv comedian by night. Gary reveals the benefits of play and shares some tips on how we can become more playful.

[00:01:00] Mission and vision
[00:02:11] Bigger why
[00:06:55] Purpose of play
[00:09:10] Major misconceptions
[00:11:03] Better mindset
[00:18:11] Managing expectations
[0022:26] Playful rebellion

Resources mentioned:
Breakthrough Play
Gary’s Twitter
Gary’s Facebook
SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully
Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety
The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers
How I Got to Sesame Street (Gwen Gordon’s TEDx Talk)

Note: Some of the resources above may be affiliate links, meaning I’d get a commission if you use that link to make a purchase (at no cost to you).


Welcome to LIFT, a podcast for you – the entrepreneur, the leader, the creative – who leads change with heart. If you don’t have it all together, you’re in the right place. I’m your host, Sharlene Sobrepeña.

In today’s episode, I chat with Gary Ware, improv comedian and founder of Breakthrough Play. We talk about why play is so important, the misconceptions around play, and how we can open ourselves up to becoming more playful. My biggest takeaway is learning that most people think of play as a waste of time. As someone who values play and relaxation, that was actually a surprise to me. Let’s get to it!

Sharlene: I hope you don’t mind if we go deep right away.

Gary: Yeah, bring it.

Sharlene: Cool. First question is, what is your mission with your work? And the second question is, what is your vision for the world?

Gary: Got it. My mission is to help over one million adults and children self-actualize through the power of play. And that’s basically, what that means is using play and improvisation, as a tool to help them find their bigger purpose, their bigger “why” and be able to connect better with other people, be more creative. So, the vision is this: we live in this world where things are super complex. There’s a lot of unknowns, and play, in my opinion, is just as important as breathing, as oxygen. We’re wired for play. However, especially as adults, we don’t play and we don’t utilize the benefits of play. So, I see, to be honest, play being a tool to actually help bring more peace to the world.

Sharlene: I love it.

Gary: Thank you.

Sharlene: You want to use play as a tool to help people find their bigger why. How do you do that?

Gary: Yeah. So, whether it’s on an individual level or in a group level, I use games that are very specific, that have a deeper meaning. So, the game in and of itself is a lot of fun and it brings a lot of joy and it gets you out of your comfort zone. However, when you reflect back on how you showed up in the game, what came up for you in the game, you will start to get some clues on some bigger ways that you can make shifts in your life. Because I have this strong belief that how you do anything is how you do everything. So, if you’re playing a game and you’re realizing that you’re getting stumped in some aspect of the game, I like to ask, “How does that relate to your life?” Whatever you’re focusing on: whether it’s work, relationships, personal things. And then, that is like a clue to something bigger.

Sharlene: Have you seen it, first hand, make some big changes in your client’s lives?

Gary: Yeah. One interesting story that I tell all the time is this. I was trying to think. I’ve had some really big ones that shocked even me and this one, I think, for the purpose of this podcast, I’ll tell this story. So, I was working with this health organization here in the States. It’s called Kaiser. I got contracted to work with their Public Affairs group. So, they have this big conference every year where all the different Public Affairs officials come together from all the different offices, all the different branches, and they have a big sort of conference. The theme was innovation and we were playing some of these games. One of the games that we were playing was called “The Human Machine,” and “The Human Machine” is like this: one at a time, each of the participants goes to the center and they do a movement and a sound. And the objective is that each movement and sound connects to the other person. So, when it’s done, you get this big machine. And then the last person names the machine. So, we’re doing it and it’s a lot of fun. And we’re doing the debrief, and this gal, she’s almost in tears. I was like, ‘Uh-oh, what happened?’ And I said, “So, what came up for you?” And she said, “Oh my gosh, I finally realized why I’m here and the importance of the work that we’re doing.” Because she said, “Normally I’m in my office. It’s like me just doing my little part. But I realized that you have to sometimes look at the bigger picture. And I have to do my part for the other person to do their part. But when you’re in the thick of things, you forget about that. And it wasn’t until this moment when I pulled back and I saw this beautiful thing that we all created together; I realized that I’m with an organization that is doing amazing things.” And she had that realization right then and there. It was that game that took her outside of it that allowed her to have that realization. And it was beautiful.

Sharlene: That’s amazing. That must be so fulfilling.

Gary: It is! And I tell people in the work that I do, there’s a lot of science and psychology of why it works, but I still sometimes get a little bit nervous thinking, ‘Is it going to work? Is it going to work?’ And it’s moments like that, that makes me very grateful for the work that I do, that I get the opportunity to do this work, because I tell people it’s not me. I’m just a facilitator. I’m here to facilitate these activities. It’s you, the participants, that’s going to make or break this thing. And I am very grateful that the people that I work with play full out. They really want to have this change. They really want to play. I feel like as adults, a lot of times we need permission to play. And when they get that permission, they have so much fun and it’s so gratifying.

Sharlene: Why else is play important to work? What are the other benefits?

Gary: Yeah. The easiest way to explain this is very simple. If you – I’m going to ask you a question, Sharlene. Would you agree that an animal in the wild, they only do the things that are necessary for survival? I’m not talking about house cats or dogs. I’m talking about a bear or mountain lion, something that’s out there that is just living in the wilderness. Would you agree that they don’t do frivolous things, right?

Sharlene: I would say initially, but then you see videos of them playing sometimes. And that’s not necessary for survival.

Gary: Yes. So, that’s the thing that us humans we take for granted. When you play, it makes you very vulnerable. It makes you very open for attack. But animals, especially those in the wild, they play. That’s my exact point, because they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t mean anything. That’s what a lot of biologists discovered, that they only do the things that are necessary for survival and they play. When you play, play has different purposes. So, play can help with learning and we see that a lot with kids, mostly with kids. Because I have a 21-month-old son as of the time of this recording, and everything my son Garrett does is through play. When you play, it actually activates a different part of your brain that’s different from the logic part. It allows you to connect things. It allows you to synthesize things. It allows you to learn quicker. There’s a stat that said that through normal repetition, you can start to master things with, I think it was over 150 different times. Through play, you can start that mastery through 20 times. So, it’s an accelerant. We talked about how to accelerate things. Play is one of those accelerants. Also, when you play, it brings about those neurochemicals in your brain that makes you feel good like dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin – it helps with trust and relationships. So, there’s all these different things that play brings and that’s why I said it is an accelerant. If you want to get that edge, you’ll play. However, most people have a different association of play. They think it is something – we’re wasting time or they look at games and they think of the uber competitive. And that’s one way of play, but the play that I’m talking about is when you have the right mindset, when you see it through the right lens, you can really use play to your advantage.

Sharlene: So, you mentioned one misconception about play. What are others? Maybe you can summarize the major misconceptions about play in regards to work.

Gary: Yeah. So, most people think play is a waste of time. Most people think play is just something that just kids do and adults shouldn’t play. I think those are the big ones. And then, when people play – another one is, they think you have to be very competitive. And so, how I like to sort of reframe that is that if you go in and you have the right mindset – so, there is this researcher, her name is Jane McGonigal. She wrote this amazing book called SuperBetter and it’s about how you can be more resilient and get things done in less time through the power of play. And she said, there’s just as much research out there about how play is detrimental to our society and to our lives, as there is about how play can help. And the only difference is this: the times where it’s detrimental, the people, they see play, their purpose of using play is as an escape. ‘I can’t deal with this, whatever this is, so I’m going to play so I don’t have to deal with it.’ And when that is the case, then you will never get the courage, you will never get the strength to deal and it will become more of a habit, that anytime something tough comes up, you use play as an escape so you don’t have to deal, and then you procrastinate whatever it is. However, if you have the different mindset, the purpose of, ‘You know what, I need strength; I need to recharge, so I’m going to take some time and play or I need to connect better with this person, so I’m going to play’ – then you will see it for what it truly is.

Sharlene: That makes sense. So, do you have any tips on how to develop the better mindset?

Gary: Yeah. First and foremost, mindset is the first thing. You have to be open to this different way of seeing play because if you’re not, then unfortunately, you’re not going to reap the benefits. Actually, some people will beg to differ. But I like to say, just be open to something new, number one. Number two, start slow. What is your intention? So, I like to tell people this. Let me ask you a question, Sharlene. If there was something that will allow you to work harder, faster, longer, and be more creative, you would do it right?

Sharlene: Of course.

Gary: Yeah. And so, that’s where play comes in. This is a true fact. A lot of people that are uber ambitious and that entrepreneurial mindset, whether you’re in a company working for someone or working for yourself, they say, ‘Hustle, we’ve got to hustle’, right? ‘We’ve got to keep grinding it out.’ True fact is, you can only sustain top productivity for a certain amount of time. Would you agree?

Sharlene: Yeah, for sure.

Gary: And then you’ll start to be prone to mistakes. I think they said something along the lines of, continuous work, it’s about 90 minutes and then along the given day, it’s about six hours. And then anything over that, you are prone to more mistakes and stuff like that. However, would you agree, a lot of people are still like, ‘Got to power through it. I’ve got a lot of work to do,’ right?

Sharlene: Of course, yeah. Definitely.

Gary: And they’re prone to more mistakes. Now, this is one of the things where if you are just honest and you really understand – I like to say, the people who get it – they have an abundance mindset. They’re not scared that other people are going to take things from them. And we’ll talk about the mindset of seeing the world as a playground versus a proving ground in just a moment, but my point here is this: if you understand what I just mentioned, then at that moment when you start to have that, ‘You know what? All right, I’m not as fresh as I have been,’ what people normally do is something that is very detrimental to their IQ and detrimental to just everything as a whole. They’ll scroll Facebook or they’ll check email. That is their break. But that doesn’t give them the lift that they need. What you need to do is you need to just take 10, 15 minutes and what if I told you that 10, 15 minutes will give you an extra hour of productivity? And in that 10, 15 minutes, do something that’s going to invigorate your body. Take a walk. Maybe have something very tactile that you can play with, just something to take your brain off of what you were doing and allow your brain to rest because your brain is a muscle and just like any muscle, when you strain that muscle – like if we were in the gym and it’s leg day and we strain our legs, because that’s how we grow, what do you do afterwards?

Sharlene: You stretch it…

Gary: You stretch it…

Sharlene: And you relax, let it rest.

Gary: Exactly. But we don’t do that to our brains and we wonder why we’re getting so burned out. So, that’s just one easy thing that you can do to start to bring on the power of play. Other contexts are this: Sharlene, in the beginning, you were talking about you want to go deep. Most people, this is something that again, part of my vision of helping to just bring people together is we have so many shallow relationships. So many people are lonely. So many people wish that they connect on a deeper level, but yet we’re just at a surface level. Play, I like to say, “People who play together stay together.” I’m just going to be honest. If you really want to enhance your relationships, whether it’s a romantic relationship or platonic relationship, or business relationship, there’s nothing like playing with them. It just sounds funny saying that and a lot of people are like, “I don’t do that.” But there’s this guy, his name is Charlie Hoehn and he wrote this amazing book called Play it Away and he talked about how he was able to reduce his anxiety to slim to nothing by playing. So, instead of going to coffee with someone, invite them out to play catch or go for a walk. This is something that I started doing when people want to meet up with me for coffee or pick my brain, I’d say, “Yeah, I’m down to do that. But I don’t do the traditional stuff. How about we meet at the juice bar? We’ll get some juice and we’ll go for a walk.” And when you are doing something in synchronicity with someone, your brains, believe it or not, are actually in sync. And then you’re going to start to trust them on a deeper level. And that’s all play. You know, again, this is seeing play in a different light. I like to say it’s a playful mindset and yeah, we’re just playing. We’re just having fun. We’re enjoying each other’s company and as a result – so talking about getting an upper edge on things: there’s a really good book that I loved so much that I listened to it twice. And it’s a new book, as of this recording it’s probably been out less than a year. It’s called The Third Door. The author, his name – I’m going to butcher his name so please forgive me – his name is Alex Banayan, I believe his name is. And the whole point of the book is it was his quest to uncover how the world’s most successful people launch their careers. And the third door is an analogy for a nightclub. So, we have the people that are waiting in line and it’s going to take forever to get in. And then there’s the celebrities and the elite that sort of have that other entrance. And then the third door – in order to get in the third door and get an edge, you have to sort of jump the line, run through the alley, bang on the door, jump through the window, escape through the kitchen to get into the club, to get access. And all of us, we want that access but most of us are waiting in line, wishing that we had an advantage. Play is an advantage and, in that book, he was talking about how he was able to connect with people like Bill Gates, with Lady Gaga, with Larry King; all these big celebrity type people that have influence, that have access, that you can’t just go up to them and request a meeting with them, right? And what you need to do and he talked about this in his book, is all the times where he was able to get access, he had a deep relationship with people. So, play is that shortcut to that.

Sharlene: How do – I would say that a lot of entrepreneurs are pretty competitive and like you said, they want to get an edge. How do competitive people manage their expectation about the benefits of play because it kind of contradicts the purpose of play?

Gary: Yeah. You bring up a good point. So, there is different types of play. Competitive play is one.

Sharlene: How do you help them manage?

Gary: And I think it’s all about the mindset. So, you can still be competitive with yourself, with other people and stuff like that, without getting manic. See, this is where I feel like there is an extreme. When you get so competitive that you would do things that at any cost – you sort of essentially violate relationships and stuff like that, that is too far. And that’s where I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs, in their quest to become the greatest, they do that. And this is where I mentioned earlier, talking about this whole mindset. So, I learned this from my mentor. Her name is Gwen Gordon. She worked on Sesame Street. She worked for IBM Park. They’re the people that created the mouse that Steve Jobs ended up using in the first Macintosh. She is an amazing person. I highly recommend looking her up. She has an amazing TED Talk, and she talked about this mindset. So, she said one of the mindsets that we most have – and it’s a default, we tend to go back there – it’s seeing the world as more of this competitive ground. And when you see the world as this competitive ground, everyone is a competitor. They’re trying to take your position. We tend to do that. We tend to go there. And then when you do that, you’re going to overwork yourself because you’re like, ‘I’ve got to stay ahead of the competition.’ And you think your competitiveness is your edge. But in reality, it becomes like a battery and it gets to the point where you burn yourself out, but you think that’s just all part of the game. But what if you burn yourself out so much that you’re unable to do the work that you want to do? And she said there’s a better way. What if you saw the world as a playground and instead of competitors, these are your playmates? And it’s almost like if I were to tell you to try so hard to lift this weight, you’re going to try so hard, you’re probably not going to be able to do it. But if you are more relaxed and at ease – and this is the woo woo-ness in me, so forgive me – I’d say, what if you saw things as an abundance? Instead of seeing things as a net sum game, in order for you to succeed someone else has to lose – that’s what a lot of people, that’s what makes them so competitive – what if you saw it as, ‘You know what, what if they can succeed and I can succeed?’ So, it’s not for everyone, but for the people who adapt that mindset, these are the people who don’t bring themselves out as much. And if you think of the uber successful people in the world, they are the ones who get it. Richard Branson, would you agree he’s a pretty successful dude?

Sharlene: Yes.

Gary: He does things that make him feel good. He plays tennis. He’s very goofy. He does these silly pranks. These are all very playful things and it doesn’t set him back. If you think of the CEO of Patagonia, the CEO of Patagonia wants all of his employees – if they want to go surfing, to go surfing.

Sharlene: That’s so cool.

Gary: So, I feel like it starts with the mindset. And in starting to shift the mindset – and I get it, when you have all of these things that have been reinforced over time, it’s hard to think about changing that because it’s sort of been stuck in stone. But, that’s why I said, let’s start small. Let’s start small and that’s why I spend a lot of time reading about very successful people, how they got their starts. And you find that all of them, when they got too competitive, when they got too cocky, that’s when things actually started falling apart. And it wasn’t until they let it go, were they able to start to rise up.

Sharlene: How do we introduce play in our work, if it’s never been part of the culture, though? I mean, you could be all for it, but how do you get your co-workers to want to be a part of it?

Gary: Yeah. So, first things first, is you have to be brave. You can’t convince someone by sort of forcing them. You could, maybe if you’re sort of a VP. But I’d like to say, lead by example. And this is challenging. This is very challenging. It’s going to take a lot of effort to do this because you and I both know that you’re the average of the people you surround yourself with. So, if the culture is a very toxic culture where people are very cutthroat and they don’t take breaks and stuff like that, you’re going to feel like you’re doing something wrong by getting out of your desk and doing actually what is necessary for you to be successful. However, if you’re brave enough to take these steps, to start inviting people to sort of like playful things, taking breaks and doing things that are going to fill you up, people are going to start to see a difference in you and they’re going to wonder, ‘What are you on?’ And then when they start seeing that you’re actually getting results, they’re going to want to get in on that. So, I’d like to say, let’s start a playful rebellion. It starts with you and then maybe before a meeting, you can ask – so this is the thing: if you want to be an influential person, a person with influence, you have to realize that we are humans and there’s a way that we all connect. And if you know that cheat code – since we’re talking about play, I’m sort of using play terminology – but if you know that cheat code, the easiest way to short circuit and really connect with someone, like I said is through play. You can start a meeting up with a question. You know like, “Hey, before we get started, I have a question for everyone. What is something that you used to do as a kid that you wish you could do now?” We’re just goofing around but people are going to start to [laugh] and they’re going to actually start to have an affinity towards you. Now, you’re building rapport. Now, you started the meeting on a high note and they’re actually going to start to feel good about themselves and good about you. And it’s going to start that playful spirit. You can’t just all go out, “We’re all going to play now. That’s a mandate!” You’re going to go, nope. You have to start small. Start with yourself. Start to build up and then once people start seeing and feeling the benefits, they’ll want more.

Sharlene: Love it. I think I want to end strong on that note. Thanks so much, Gary, and where can we find you online and if there are any projects you want to share?

Gary: Yeah. You can find me on my website, I’m on Instagram or Twitter through my name, Gary Ware. And a project that I’m considering and we’re talking about how can we accelerate things. And so, I’m sort of sorting it out there to see if there is any interest. It’s how to be a master communicator, how to overcome the fear of public speaking, and I have a very playful way of doing that. So, if you’re interested, then hit me up. Once I get enough people that are interested, I’m going to share the secrets that I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars to learn and I’ve created a very gameful way of doing that, that will help you whether you’re on the stage or in the boardroom, be able to communicate in a way that is more of yourself and less like someone else, and as a result, be able to get what you want. So, that’s something that I’m working on. But more importantly like I said in the beginning, we’re in a very toxic environment right now. We need to connect on a deeper level and if you can take anything away from all the stuff that I said over the last 20 to 30 minutes of this: start to inject a little bit of play into your life so that you can have more joy, and start to spread that.

Sharlene: Thanks so much, Gary.

Gary: No, thank you Sharlene. I really appreciate you for bringing me on.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and listening to LIFT. If this episode resonated with you, I’d appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a review. That way, more people can discover this resource, and together, we can accelerate good change in the world. Thanks so much. Until next time.

004 – Serving the Global Market with Case Lane

In this episode, I chat with Case Lane, founder of Ready Entrepreneur, thriller writer, and self-described observer to the future. Case shares some tips on how to start a business and how to keep an eye out for new opportunities in a global market.

[00:00:59] Mission and vision
[00:02:55] “I could do that”
[00:05:25] Start small
[00:08:05] What resonates
[00:10:36]  The ultimate goal
[00:12:52] Not an exact science
[00:17:08] A global market
[00:26:32] The opportunities
[00:23:07] Keep going

Resources mentioned:
Ready Entrepreneur
The Ready Entrepreneur Podcast
Life Dream: 7 Universal Moves to Get the Life You Want Through Entrepreneurship
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Steven Covey)
The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
Smart Passive Income (Pat Flynn)

Note: Some of the resources above may be affiliate links, meaning I’d get a commission if you use that link to make a purchase (at no cost to you).


Welcome to LIFT, a podcast for you – the entrepreneur, the leader, the creative – who leads change with heart. If you don’t have it all together, you’re in the right place. I’m your host, Sharlene Sobrepeña.

In today’s episode, I chat with Case Lane, a global traveler, business consultant, author, and coach to aspiring entrepreneurs. We talk about what holds people back from starting a business, how to get started, and the importance of staying consistent with your work. My biggest takeaway is that being a good observer is a trait of a good entrepreneur. If you can observe yourself and your surroundings, you’re able to discern the needs of people and create a business you’ll likely stick with. Let’s get to it!

Sharlene: I like to start off every interview with some deep questions. What is your mission with your work and what is your vision for the world?

Case: Oh, okay. Those two questions go hand-in-hand for me. So, my business is Ready Entrepreneur. And the idea is to help what I call serious global thinkers achieve lifestyle freedom through entrepreneurship. And there are so many people who want to start a business and just don’t start it. But I feel like now, at this point in history, if you’re one of those people with business ideas in your head, you’ve really got to do it. You’ve got to jump on it because everything is changing so dramatically. The economy is changing, the politics, everything around us. And as a business person, you could have greater control, I feel, of your environment if you are running your own business and doing what you really love to do, and providing that kind of value for everybody in the marketplace. So, if you’re one of those people thinking, ‘Maybe I want to start a business’, then this is the time to do it and I really emphasize leveraging the fact that now you have an entire big global marketplace and you have a lot in common with people on the opposite side of the world. You may not even think so, but we’re becoming so much more cross-cultural and you have technology resources. And the combination of the two is just absolutely vital to the way the world is changing and if you’re somebody who’s actually leveraging both, you’re going to be part of just that whole process. It’s going to keep happening no matter what. I know there’s a lot of unresting concern, but globalization and technology are here to stay and they’re just going to keep moving forward, no matter what people think. So, if you want to have your own business and take advantage of those resources, you’re going to be right there and have a lot greater control, I think, of the way things are moving because you’re a part of it instead of just sort of a bystander.

Sharlene: Should everyone start a business and what holds people back from starting one?

Case: In terms of everybody deciding, I always say, do you have business ideas in your head? So, if you’re that person who’s always saying, ‘Wow I could do that’ or ‘That’s interesting’, or ‘I’d like to start that business’, even if it’s just you’re walking in the mall and you think, ‘Oh I had that idea’ or ‘I had something similar’ – if you’re that person, then you’re the one who should start a business. So, it’s not for everyone because there are obviously people who never think like that. They just sort of take everything as it comes and go along, and so on. But there are some people that you might even have them in your own life who you show them something and they’re like, ‘Oh, I could do that better’. So, those are the ones you say, well let’s get on this path and start that business. So, I think that that’s the general idea, is that you’re already part way there. And what I always like to say is – so your follow-up question is what holds people back. That’s where I start. I go with the first part, you have a business idea in your head and you want to be an entrepreneur. And then I focus on confidence, time and money because I feel those are the three things that hold people back. People, that’s one of the first things they say is, ‘Oh, I can’t do that’ or ‘It’s not really for me’, or ‘It’s too difficult’. And I try and eliminate those obstacles that people have in the back of their minds by showing how you can get it done. And the same with time and money. I think most people who say they don’t have time actually do have the time but they’re spending it on other things that they think are important. And at the same time, they’re saying, ‘Oh I really want to start a business but I really need to binge-watch ten shows on Netflix’. It’s like, wait a second. So, there is time. And there’s also money. I think that’s another thing people think. ‘Oh, it’s going to cost millions’ and you start small. I talk about having incremental process. Even just the idea of beginning to map out what your business looks like and how you can build it, that doesn’t cost you any money. And that puts you much further ahead than you were maybe the day or two before when you were saying you just wanted to do it, but you’re not going to be able to. So, I try and focus on those things. And I sort of have this idea around Ready Entrepreneur gets you sort of stood up as an entrepreneur so that you can go forward and actually get the business moving after you get the mindsets ready as well.

Sharlene: So, what does starting small look like?

Case: The very basic thing is to have a vision of what you want, so you have that – it’s that Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind,” but then, going right back to the beginning and do your research. So, you have a general idea of what you’d like to do for your business. You start researching how you can get it done. Read as much as possible. Listen to others who’ve done it. There are so many free resources now, with all the videos on YouTube and so on. If it’s something that you’re interested in that’s very specific, like a physical product business where you have to maybe learn how something is made, then you would do that as well. And then I even say, think about if money is not an obstacle, time is not an obstacle, what does it look like step-by-step, activity-by-activity to actually create that business? What would you do today to get that business moving? What would you do tomorrow? Let’s say you want to start a store. Okay, how are you going to research for locations? How are you going to get product delivered? What’s your supply chain? So, it’s basically actually you have to be that person. You have to think like an entrepreneur, think like a CEO, be that person who is ‘Okay, if I need to do this right now how am I going to do it’ – and actually just start doing it. So, I would suggest the best thing to do is to get started. It’s such a – I would say, it’s getting over that first hill is to actually just start with some piece of the business and move forward with it, even if it’s just spending 15 minutes a day researching online during your lunch break around the things that you’re interested in for the business. That’s so much more than you were doing the day before and it’s absolutely critical because you will find that your mindset starts to change the more you do it and the more you think about it. And you start to think more like that business person who sees things out there in the world and you’re able to adapt them to your reality which is now being formulated by all of this knowledge and information that you’re putting in your brain all the time because you’re trying to absorb this material. And again, it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s going to take some time. You have to find that time in your day to do it. But you can get started without spending any money and it’s going to give you confidence because you’re going to become smarter and smarter about the thing that it is that you really want to do. So, I really suggest – get started is always the key, just to do even one little piece of what you think you want to do, that’s where you move forward.

Sharlene: How about for those who really don’t know where to start. Do you have any resources you can recommend like, say, podcasts or books or…?

Case: Yeah. I kind of go back and forth on this because it’s so dependent on the type of person you are and what your interests are. So, I would go with, thinking about the business ideas you have – and maybe, okay, let’s say you don’t have any business ideas. You just know you want your own business. So, what you start looking at then is you need something, somewhere to start. And you know you can always change it. Look at your interests. Look at your hobbies. Look at your education, your knowledge. Where are there gaps in the marketplace? And even if you’re not finding gaps, what are other people talking about? What are people saying that they wish that they had or they wish that some company or some product or service was done differently? And which one of those things that you’ve heard about actually resonates with you. And you’re like, ‘Yeah, I agree with that. Maybe there’s a better way to do it.’ So, you start looking at all the different things that interest you because one of the things that really, I would say, hurts people in the long run is if they start with something where they’re just trying to make money and then they realize they don’t like it. And so, when people talk about how businesses fail or people get discouraged or it’s a horrible thing or so on, it could be because they started with a product or service they’re not even interested in in the first place. And so, if you don’t really have that enthusiasm, if you just sign up for “How to make a million dollars in five minutes,” and then you find out you don’t even like the whole idea, you’re not going to be able to sustain it. And then you’re going to become even more discouraged because you think it’s you. You think, ‘Oh, I really can’t do this entrepreneurship thing,’ when in fact, it was just the idea that you picked. So, go with something you really are interested in so that you stick with it and it sustains you. And it’s even better if you’re already doing it, if it’s related to a hobby or an interest that you’re already involved in and you find something that you can do that supports that particular interest, that’s great. That’s even much better. But even if it’s not, just as long as it’s something that interests you and you know it’s going to keep your interest – so, even if you don’t do this one specific thing you started out thinking you’re going to do, but it’s within the same industry, you can leverage the experience to do the second idea that’s in your head, or the third or the fourth one, and not be afraid to sort of drop an idea and move on to the next one.

Sharlene: How do you stay resilient? I know there are times when even though you’re working on something that really interests you, it’s inevitable that you’re going to just kind of fall into this pit. I fell into the pit personally. How do you deal with that?

Case: Yeah. That is a tough one because you do, especially if you were working alone, nobody else was doing it with you. You go out every day and spend time on your business, and let’s say things aren’t working out very well or things are moving very slowly and you’re thinking, this is a real drag. But I always say, you go back to why you’re doing it. So, I talk about achieving lifestyle freedom. So that’s the big thing for me, it’s this idea around managing your own time for your own goals, your own objectives, so you’re not tied to somebody else’s vision. You are tied only to your own and you can manage that, and having that opportunity not to have to sort of follow other people but to be the leader, in a sense, of a particular enterprise. If that’s the bigger goal, then you keep working on it because if you just think about why did you want to do that in the first place? Is it because the last time you wanted to go to a family wedding, you couldn’t do it because of work? Or the last time that a child was sick, you couldn’t leave early, you couldn’t get there on time because somebody said you had to do something. So, if you’re thinking, ‘Okay, there is a reason why I wanted to get away from this other people’s control and control my own life, my own lifestyle,’ that is one thing to keep in mind every time you think about, ‘Wow this is dragging me down.’ Another thing I did, I just started this year. I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Miracle Morning, it’s a book by Hal Elrod. Really interesting guy, I mean he tells the story much better than I possibly can, but it’s the guy who’s died twice. He talks about how he was in a head-on collision and was dead at the scene and he also had a battle with cancer and so on. He’s a very positive, uplifting guy. But he created this morning routine around things that you’ve heard about before – so, exercising, reading, journaling, visualizing, affirmations. And he just put it all together into one morning routine and talks about how you get up early and you set your day based on doing all these different things. There are six of them. I only do four. I don’t do all six. One of the things is the journaling. It’s the writing every day. And I’m not a diary keeper. I’m not a “Dear Diary” keeper. So, what I do with that writing is basically be honest with myself and say, okay yeah, this is not a great week because I spent a couple hundred dollars on promotions and the book didn’t sell very many copies or something like that. That’s where I lay out what I think the issue is and why I’m going to keep going. So, basically if I’m in that kind of mood, when I take that ten minutes in the morning to write, that’s what I’ll write about. And I’ll reset my mind. It’s like, okay, I know that that’s happened, that that particular activity that I did didn’t work. Why didn’t I think it worked? What am I going to do differently next time? And what’s the ultimate goal here? And so, you reset your mind. Every single day, you are telling yourself and again, you don’t have to do it as journaling. You can do it through affirmations. You can tell it out loud. You can do it when you’re exercising, what have you. But you’re basically resetting your mind every morning, if necessary, to be where you want to be. And you write down – you can get up and think, okay, I can’t remember why I want to do this, spend ten minutes writing about why you wanted to do it. And that’s what brings you back constantly to your ultimate goal. So, that’s the practice that I implemented at some point this year when I read that book. And that’s worked for me. And like I said, I don’t even follow it to the letter, but again, I take the parts that work for me and then I put those into place.

Sharlene: That’s cool, yeah. I read that book I think last year. It was a good one.

Case: Yeah.

Sharlene: You mentioned underserved markets earlier. How can you find underserved markets if you don’t live in that country? Can you use Twitter somehow? What are the methods that you can recommend?

Case: Yeah. Let’s say you have a product or a service and you want to just understand if you should be marketing at some other place where you think that they don’t have that. There’s a couple of ways. I would say that you are looking at their online services, I guess, so to speak. It’s not really going to be an exact science. Let’s say if it’s a country where you understand the language and you can just look at what their media is covering, then you can keep up-to-date that way. If you travel, you can see it; if you’re traveling and you can see what’s going on. Otherwise, I think the best thing to do is always just to put your work out there. If you have videos you want to put up on YouTube, if you have blogs that you’re writing about what you’re offering, people will find you because they are online looking. So, people know themselves that they’re underserved because they go online and search. If you put in “how to” in Google and you see all of the thousands of how-to questions that Google has, you have a sense of what people are asking. And so, you put that information out there into the world through whatever one of the platforms you like to use, people will find you. And you’ll start to see them coming to you because that’s what they are looking for. So, instead of worrying about whether or not there’s a market, put it out there and find out. Put out one video up on a YouTube channel and see what happens. But it’s always about getting started, getting your message out there, getting your product or service out there because if you’re not even out there, it doesn’t really matter how much knowledge you have about the market because you can keep saying forever that people really want something that maybe you’ll create one day. But you’re way better off if you create it first and it’s available.

Sharlene: So, what are some mistakes that entrepreneurs make when they decide to take their businesses global?

Case: I think one thing is sort of being influenced by their own biases. I think what people don’t realize is there’s a lot of – I’ll probably put this – there’s a lot of preconceived ideas out there about people in different countries, different groups and so on. So, what happens is sometimes – and people have what they’ll claim is a global business, but then you’ll hear in a speech that they make, where they’ll make a joke about a particular nationality or something like that. Which means that they’re not really paying attention to the fact that they are a global business. And you are global if you are online, and you’re delivering a product that anybody in the world can access online. So, they tend to sort of take themselves out of a market by not being open to the fact that they should be treating everybody the same, sort of on a level playing field. So, I think if you’re going to see your business as global, which you should do if you’re setting up a website and putting it online, you should see your business as global right from the beginning. And so, you should realize whatever biases, preconceived ideas that you have in your head about other people, just drop all those and focus on the service or the product that you’re delivering and the reason why you’re delivering it, and the gap that you’re filling, and the marketplace demand. Because the reason you created that product or service, the reason people want it or need it is going to be the same everywhere. Your customers are all coming to you for that information, from anywhere in the world, for whatever reason. So, you don’t need to think that the person is this type of person or that type of person. You have to look at what need or desire you’re fulfilling and then deliver to the global customer that way. So, I think it’s very important to just think about the potential market for your product or service is based solely on the need that you’re fulfilling or the want, or the gap in the marketplace that you’re fulfilling. And then when you actually, if you do have a physical product or even a digital product, it’s always very important as well to just be aware that it is a global market that you’re delivering to. So, you don’t want to put anything in that you think will be offensive and if you’re not sure, then that’s when you take it out. Especially again, for some people they would say, ‘Well, I don’t care about the rest of the world. It doesn’t matter’. So, that’s fine. Then, don’t worry about it. But other people will think, ‘Okay this potentially can be something that’s worldwide,’ then you really just, if you think that there is something offensive, that might be offensive to other people and you want to be global, then you should take out whatever you think is going to be offensive. But if you don’t want to be global anyway or some people say they want to be global but they don’t want to sort of diminish their personality or whatever, something like that; that’s fine too. But then you have to recognize where the backlash might come from. So, you just have to be prepared for that as well.

Sharlene: You mentioned biases. What are some common ones?

Case: I think it’s just general stereotypes that people have about different cultures and so on. And I think the problem is, is that we at least from a North American perspective, we don’t really understand the rest of the world. We don’t travel as much as we should. We don’t cover the news of the rest of the world. So, when we think of a poor country for example, we just assume everybody’s poor. That’s not like that. I don’t think there’s any country in the world where everybody is poor. There’s always rich people and there’s probably, especially nowadays, a growing middle class. And that growing middle class and upper middle class is much more economically aligned with the middle class in North America and everywhere else. So, I think we have this idea in our heads about the poor people or the struggling countries, or this and that where it’s all driven by our very, very limited knowledge. And instead of sort of seeing that every country’s moving forward, every country’s developing, every country’s growing and within that are literally millions upon millions of people who are rising up to an economic level that’s becoming more and more – it’s higher and higher every year.

Sharlene: Where do you see the opportunities, for example, the types of businesses people can start or services, emerging markets, underserved markets? You mentioned the middle class, maybe countries where the middle class are growing?

Case: Yeah. So, people are desperate for information. We call this “The Information Age” and everybody’s more desperate for information than they’ve ever been because it’s not presented in a way that makes it easily accessible. So, there’s plenty of information. Anybody who’s googled around, like even going on a trip and you want to be able to compare hotel prices or something. You end going to ten different sites to try and get a general idea of the type of place you want. So, that’s a general example. Take that to the next level of people who are trying to learn how to start a business or how to teach online or even how to do things in their community like raising animals or painting a house, or living in a temporary accommodation. Whatever the issue is, there are people who want to have very laid out and clear solutions to their problems. And that’s not being delivered yet on the scale that’s needed for all those people who are asking those questions. Again, just the how-to’s on Google, you’ll come across hundreds and hundreds of videos about something and yet people are still asking the same question because not one of them is delivering the information in a way that they can really understand it. So, that is the opportunity that’s out there for everybody who has some level of knowledge that is better than the next person. Or I would even say better, but can be presented better. You know Pat Flynn’s origin story, where he started with this architecture exam. He said there was always books and courses and everything on how to take this exam but not presented in a way that obviously resonated with people. When he put his out there, that ended up becoming his business. So, you can look at all these products and services that are out there in the world and there are some that are just not organized in a way that people want to see them and different people look at everything differently as well. We were talking about a book like The Miracle Morning. There are tens of thousands of self-help books and people all look at them differently and implement them differently. And then there’s a new one next week, and a new one the week after that. So, there’s plenty of opportunity to just take what you know because what you know based on your education, your work experience, your knowledge and so on, that is more than some other group of people or audience or so on. That’s more than they have, so they’re looking for that information. They’re looking for it to be presented in a way that they can really utilize it, or they’re looking for product that fits better for their world the way that they want to do things. And so, basically, you have that opportunity out there to just pick within all those possibilities. Take your approach, but your approach out there into the world and you’ll find that audience as looking for that particular way of doing things, that specific way.

Sharlene: Do you have thoughts about emerging markets? You mentioned the growing middle class.

Case: Yeah. And I think it’s even more so for them because in countries where services and products are either not readily available or they are, but they’re very, very expensive. They’re people who have money to spend, but they can’t quite get what they’re looking for because of the way their country’s economically structured. So, that’s an opportunity. Now, I want to put a caution. Again, if you’re dealing with both physical and digital products across borders and you have to think about, especially for physical of course, if you want to export products to another country, you do have to think about a few of these issues if the country is so differently economically structured that it becomes hard for you to actually deliver a product there because you obviously want to get paid on your end as well. So, that’s a separate issue. But I think in general, just in general, people want to see things presented to them in a way that they understand, that makes more sense, that delivers in a way that resonates with them. And so, that’s where the opportunity lies across the board with all countries, with all people, because again you focus on the need that you are fulfilling and that gap in the marketplace that is out there.

Sharlene: I think I want to end this with one last question. How can we position our business for success in the global marketplace? Do you have a couple of tips?

Case: Well, the first thing is the actual product or service itself. So, focus first on making sure that you do a great job with creating whatever that product or service is that you want to deliver to the world. You want to be that entrepreneur who’s providing value. So, you look around, you see the gaps, you see the issues and so on. You’re like, ‘Okay, I have an idea that can provide value here to the world,’ but you want to spend some time making sure that that’s the thing. And again, I don’t want people to be discouraged by that. You don’t have to spend years and years doing research and development or something like that. It’s actually more important to get the idea out there. So, get it out there as best as you can. Be prepared to tweak it. Be prepared to change it, pivot it, what-have-you. But it would still be always focused on the fact that you want to deliver value. And the other thing I would say is: focus, as well. There’s a lot of different ideas and you are successful when you pick one and move forward with it. And it might not even be just one thing but it’s one sort of concept. Like, which started as a bookstore, and now is 27 different things in terms of all the different services and so on. But the overall idea is still the same. So, you want to make sure that you can run with something that allows you to stay focused and you constantly build on the information and the knowledge and the experience and the learnings that you get from your business. So, if you’re staying focused within the same area, the same industry, and even if the first business or the second business doesn’t really work, but you learn and so you become more successful because you’re becoming more confident and you’re becoming more of an expert on your piece of the world within this particular industry, and then you can take that and just continue to build on it and hopefully that then at some point, even if it’s the tenth iteration of your idea, that could be the one that is the big business. But you’ve built it because you stayed focused on the same sort of general concept. And then just keep your head up. The difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is giving up. If you don’t give up, then you’re going to get there, or you’re going to die trying and nobody can say anything else. So, it’s really basically sticking with it. You’re successful if you keep going. And even if you feel like, you’re running out of money or you tried so hard, you’re working 20 hours a day… just keep going. And at some point, it’s going to fall into place because if you keep in the back of your mind, again, why you’re doing it, what your ultimate goal is, what you’re trying to achieve, the value you want to deliver, all of that’s going to fuel you on and help you to really want to keep moving forward. So, don’t give up in that sense. You won’t get to success if you give up, so don’t give up. Just keep moving forward. Keep doing it. Keep pursuing it and eventually, I’m pretty sure it falls into place because that’s what you end up seeing in the world around you, is obviously all the successful are the ones who didn’t give up, right? So, you have to stick with them.

Sharlene: Very true. So, thank you Case. Thank you so much for joining us. And where can we find you online and do you want to share any projects that you’re working on?

Case: Yeah, sure. You can find me at That’s the main website for all of you serious global thinkers who want to achieve lifestyle freedom through entrepreneurship. The book that I have on that is called Life Dream: Seven Universal Moves to Get the Life You Want Through Entrepreneurship. So, you can take a look at that as well. And I also have The Ready Entrepreneur Podcast, so you can catch up on some of the tips and strategies. The next project is – so, I write fiction as well. I’ve been focused on fiction writing lately, so I’ll have releases. And if you sign up on my website for my newsletter, you’ll get information about the future book releases. And then with Ready Entrepreneur, I just continue to look for tips and strategies, and ideas to help you get where you want to go in terms of becoming an entrepreneur in the global high-tech world.

Sharlene: Cool. Thank you so much, Case.

Case: All right, thank you.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and listening to LIFT. If this episode resonated with you, I’d appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a review. That way, more people can discover this resource, and together, we can accelerate good change in the world. Thanks so much. Until next time.

002 – The Power of Creating with Tom Morkes

In this episode, I chat with Tom Morkes, West Point grad and Iraq War veteran turned publisher, author, entrepreneur. Tom shares some unexpected benefits of creating, how he’s taken skills learned in the military and applied them to his businesses, and how spreading ideas can take you places.

[00:01:14] Mission and vision
[00:04:57] Creating value from nothing
[00:08:44] Step in the ring
[00:12:13] Perseverance
[00:15:23] Shut off part of your brain
[00:22:27] Keys to the kingdom

Resources mentioned:
Tom Morkes’ Blog
In the Trenches Podcast
Collaborate: The Modern Playbook for Leading a Small Team to Create, Market, and Sell Digital Products Online
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Seth’s Blog
Read This Before Our Next Meeting: How We Can Get More Done
The Domino Project
Clay Hebert
The Jeff Goins Blog

Note: Some of the resources above may be affiliate links, meaning I’d get a commission if you use that link to make a purchase (at no cost to you).


Welcome to LIFT, a podcast for you – the entrepreneur, the leader, the creative – who leads change with heart. If you don’t have it all together, you’re in the right place. I’m your host, Sharlene Sobrepeña.

In this episode, I sit down with Tom Morkes. Tom served in the US Army for five years and is now an author and entrepreneur. We talk about the benefits of building multiple streams of income (that go beyond financial gains), how he’s taken the skills learned in the military and applies them to entrepreneurship, and how he was able to work with some big names online. My biggest takeaway is that it doesn’t matter if your work sucks at first. What matters is that we make the shift from being a consumer to a producer or creator. And that act of embracing this power of taking control of your life, can lead to opportunities you may not even be able to fathom right now. And that to me, is an exciting thought. Let’s get to it!

Sharlene: Yeah. What’s your mission? What’s the mission of your work and what’s the vision, what’s your vision for the world? So, I guess in other words, what’s the change you want to see in the world and what are you doing to nudge it in that direction? And that can be lofty or specifically with your audience, or both.

Tom: I think the world needs more entrepreneurs and more people who go out and create things for themselves, and less followers and more leaders. It’s especially true, I think, now more than ever. We see the power coagulated, we’ll say, within a few number of large companies and they employ the most people in the world. And so, we give all this as a culture, as a society, we give so much power to these companies because they employ so many people. It’s a double-edged sword, obviously, because on the one hand that’s good. Employment is good. We want people working. On the other hand, when these companies get too big, they have so much more power than I think we think they do have or we recognize that they have. And when it comes to the individual, if you’re an employee, if everybody becomes employees, you have very little negotiation power as just as an employee, as just somebody who is being paid a wage; whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s a high wage or a low wage. It doesn’t matter. To some degree, you are imprisoned by that system. And so, I deeply respect and admire the entrepreneur and the creative, and the writer, and the artist – the person who goes out and does their own thing without permission, without being told to do it, without being paid to do it. And they go out and they create these things that are important to the rest of us. And so, whether you’re a solopreneur just getting started, trying to do something on your own; whether you’re trying to write your first book, whether you’re just working on art in your spare time, it’s like do it. Get it out there because not only does it benefit the world – because that’s going to actually lead to more employment and less of that power being conglomerated by a few, but spread out amongst many. That’s a better society to have. It’s safer. It’s more anti-fragile. But the added benefit is you have more negotiation power in life. You have more optionality in life. You get to now set the terms of your own life, if you have additional streams of income coming in from what you’re doing. So, I’m not saying ‘Quit your job’. I think jobs are great. What I am saying is, even if you have a job, you should be doing something on the side so that you can develop these new streams of income. Or at the very least, if you don’t even care about money, to do things where you’re not being told to do it; but you’re doing it of your own accord, on your own terms, and you’re doing it because you think it’s worthwhile because I think there’s so many other benefits that stem from when you take control of your life that way. Even in the smallest, most insignificant type of hobby you can think of, if you are the one kind of going out there and putting something out there to share with other people, that’s an important thing. And the repercussions, the positive repercussions will echo across your lifetime. I’ve known it. I’ve seen it so many times with the clients I work with, with the people I get to work with on a daily basis, with the people I’ve collaborated with and seeing this happen over the last five or ten years as I’ve kind of been working the space in different capacities and seeing the people who are just starting out as a hobby and seeing it grow as something so much more. And even those who choose to keep it small or choose not to monetize, it’s just their art or their writing, the positive impact it has on their lives. And I can go into tons of examples, but I will just leave it at that and just say, the world needs more entrepreneurs, more creatives, more people just going out on their own, doing their own thing. And that’s you, if you’re listening to this, start doing it. Start it today. Start something and ship it.

Sharlene: Have you always felt this way? Have you always felt this passionately about this? Or was there a particular mindset shift somewhere?

Tom: I’d say that maybe it’s my predisposition to think that way, to some degree. Because if I can trace it back as early as I can remember, recall things, I’ve always been interested in art, in writing, in design and creation. I’ve always been enamored more by the way things are created, who created them, than by the thing itself; which I know is kind of odd. It’s like I’ll watch a movie and I’ll always wonder, how was it made, how was it done? What was the director or the writer thinking, you know? That’s where my brain goes. When it came to video games and all these other things that people spend a lot of time doing, it’s like I’ve always been more fascinated by what led to its existence than what it is. And so, I guess that’s maybe just where my brain has always gone and kind of led me to what I’m doing today and I guess now being able to articulate that message now kind of more clearly. I think the value of the entrepreneur too, somebody who creates value out of nothing or from scratch, or creates more value from a setting or scenario where there’s less value. I mean that’s fundamentally with entrepreneurs, you’re creating more value in the world that did not exist before you came, and put your hands on it and worked with it. And it’s like, I think the combination of those two things, this kind of just desire to understand how things are made, what drives people to create things, these wonderful things that we interact with and use every day. And then on the other side of things, the flip side, the business side, or the impact side from a cultural standpoint, why it’s so important that people are doing that. We need people to be experimenting. If you get complacent, if you get lazy, if you just let the world dictate your terms… Again, I’m not necessarily dogging on the idea of being employed. But if that’s where you stop, even if you love it, what it does is it closes doors in the future for you. And all you will ever be is an employee. But if you start even a side hustle now, you start creating something on the side, you always have the possibility of shifting directions if you want. It gives you more optionality, and I think more optionality is a benefit. So, I look at this and I say, some of these ideas I think I’ve been able to refine and articulate thanks to some great thinkers like Nassim Taleb and his book Antifragile, Skin in the Game, The Black Swan. Who else? He’s one of the more prominent, I think, modern-day thinkers in this way, but it’s fundamentally, you could say, it’s like the same philosophy espoused by Plato or Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius and stuff like that. It’s like these ideas from antiquity, a lot of it, and it’s that you should be the creator. You should be the producer. You should see where you can set your sight on something where you can add value. Even if it’s selfish to begin with, because if you can add value but it’s somebody else that can get value from it, even if it’s a selfish intention that’s still a benefit to the world. And so, instead of it being like how do we become, how do we try to change how other people act and what they do, it’s like maybe focus on yourself and focus on what you can create, what you can do, and that little spark can create a fire. And so again, coming back to this, I think part of it is natural disposition and the other part of it was just living life, having been through the military and my experience with that, and then moving into kind of self-employment and then entrepreneurship, and getting employees and building businesses and things like that, and having had these experiences across the board; I think it just cemented what I already believed to be true from a long time ago.

Sharlene: So, what are you doing now that in your work, that is pushing it that way? How are you creating more entrepreneurs in the world? How are you supporting them?

Tom: I do it in a few different ways. One is with the podcast “In the Trenches” and I do get a lot of feedback from that. I had a lot of positive feedback. It’s interesting because it’s a different demographic than my email list, which is another platform or medium that I use to share ideas, which is also a different audience than kind of my blog where I share and publish other ideas; and then through a whole host of other kind of channels and conduits. But fundamentally, I think what I blog about, what I email about with my newsletter and what I publish in the conversations I have on my podcast, they’re all geared towards creators. And I would say that it’s just kind of coming back to these messages of ‘Start before you’re ready’, ‘Step in the ring’, ‘It’s better to be in the ring and lose than be on the sideline and be that kind of Monday morning quarterback that is fundamentally useless to the conversation.’ But it’s really easy and it’s really lower risk to be that person, but that person is worthless in the concept of this game that we’re playing. So, step in the ring, do the work, that’s kind of the messaging that I espouse. And in as far as additional ways that I try to kind of support and help, again the podcast is completely free. The newsletter is completely free. The blog is completely free. So, everything I write and produce, 95-99% of it is free. And it’s based on that messaging, but then also more practical and pragmatic approaches to doing these kinds of things. So, it started with, one of the fundamental things I started to teach about early on was pay what you want pricing. So, here’s an alternative way to price or to approach the question of pricing. And to this day, it’s gotten tons of great reviews. I have tons and tons of case studies and testimonials from people who have used it and they’ve gotten great results from it. But, it’s interesting because it’s one of those topics where it’s very polarizing. But I think that’s good. It’s like we need to have conversations about these kinds of alternative ideas and ways to do business, ways to create, ways to share what we do in the world. But beyond that, again I help peop;e with now predominantly, I’m kind of focused on more of the business side of things, and how to kind of grow businesses by getting targeted, like high quality traffic, turning those into subscribers, and then turning those subscribers into customers; and how do you do that quickly and efficiently and consistently across time. And then build from there because ultimately that’s what every person, when they start, they’re going to run into those questions. And they’re going to think that the problem is X, Y or Z, but when they get established, the biggest problem’s going to be like, how do I get in front of the right people? How do I get more sales of whatever it is I’m creating? And so, a lot of what I teach now is just kind of focused in around that, which falls in line with a bunch of things from a spectrum of work that I’ve done from affiliate and influencer marketing, to storytelling copywriting, to launch sequences and product launch kind of methodology, and kind of a whole host and range of other things. But that’s where I’m centered. I know it’s a broad, broad range but I just kind of share ideas based on the questions I get, the feedback I get or the things I notice people doing wrong and then I’ll just share my ideas on it. I try to make it a conversation. So, it’s kind of fun.

Sharlene: You mentioned you used to serve in the military. I’m wondering what, if anything, were you able to take from your life in the military to your life as an entrepreneur?

Tom: The number one thing would have to be perseverance. That’s a big one, I guess, underneath it all. It’s like, if you want to go and start something on your own, it’s going to take a lot of grit and strength, and courage. And all of those things rely on your ability to put one foot in front of the other every day and maybe for months at a time, maybe for years at a time. And maybe, for such a period of time before you’ve actually reaped the benefits of what you’re doing, that you want to throw in the towel and you want to quit. So, it’s perseverance. There’s probably 90 out of 100 people have great ideas and they have things that they talk about that they want to do. And of those, say 90 out of 100, there’s probably more, there’s probably 99% – the truth is that only maybe about one or two, maybe upwards of five out of those 100 will actually ever start something. And then the reality is, maybe one of those five that started something will ever actually finish and ship it. And then of those, it’s like a smaller percentage of who will actually do it successfully or do it enough and not fail immediately so that they can keep building, keep producing to scale to something worthwhile. It’s such a miniscule amount and it’s because of that piece, it’s perseverance. It’s, am I willing to make the sacrifice now and tomorrow, and the next day, and for the next year, maybe the next two years or three years, or four years, or five years. For this thing, this idea that I have in my head of what I want it to be in five or ten or twenty years; am I willing to sacrifice that? And the reality is for most people, it’s like nah, I’d rather watch Netflix. And so, with my experience in the military, in the army was just that life can be miserable. But at least I could be miserable doing something that I think is worthwhile and beneficial, and helpful at a very base level. But then on a more optimistic level, I also realized, and learned an appreciation of life and the beauty of it, and the good things that can come from it. But knowing that those good things only come because people commit themselves to creating that better vision. And so, to me, it’s an absolute no-brainer why that’s something I have to do. But, if you do not have that perseverance, it’s just going to be so easy to quit. You’ll quit in three days. You’ll quit in a month. You’ll quit in a year. And at the end of the day, it’s the people who don’t quit who inevitably end up creating the things that we all use and that we share, and that add value to our lives. So, I don’t want anybody to be scared by that notion, that it’s going to take work and effort, but I think I’d be lying if I said it was easy or that that would be a necessary aspect or component of the work, of the meaningful work that you want to do.

Sharlene: So, in your lowest times, how did you keep going? How did you persevere? Do you have any tips for listeners who weren’t in the military? What kind of tips can you give us?

Tom: It’s interesting because I’m guessing – well, the answer obviously very clearly would have to depend on maybe the type of person. But I will say that from my experience and conversations I’ve had and some of the research I’ve done, and it was actually just yesterday I heard the statistic and again, let’s assume that it’s based on truth. I guess you can’t really trust things anymore in a lot of ways, but it was something like the internal chatter we have in our heads, something like 70% of it is negative; or at least that’s for men. It might be higher for men. And so, that’s really fascinating to me because I’m like, ‘Yup, been there, got that.’ I’m probably more like 90%, maybe 99%; as in I am my own worst enemy. So, I will shut things down before I do them. If I listen to myself, I will not do anything and that’s how it was for years because I had all these thoughts and I was looking at what people were doing. I was like, here’s how I would do it differently or this is what I would do instead; or here’s how I’d get better results faster because I understood what was happening, but then I wasn’t pulling the trigger and doing anything. Instead I was like, ‘Well, if I was going to do that, here’s 100 reasons why I shouldn’t do it today, why I shouldn’t start, why I shouldn’t – because I’ll be called a phony. I’m not legitimate. I don’t have money, the resources. My time is better spent elsewhere. My friends are over. I want to go hang out with them. I want to go see my family this weekend.’ And the list goes on. There’s 100 reasons why I should start tomorrow, at least not start today. And that would be what I call the self-doubt propaganda planes inside our brains that are just dumping useless nonsense onto us. And so, what I did was I just shut it off and I said, I’m doing this and I’m publishing it. I’m going to hit publish and I’m going to walk away from it. And I did that for the first 6-12 months of writing online. I just would write it down. I get to a point where I would be like, I felt good about it and then before I even consider how other people might take it, I just hit publish because if I got into that debate up my head of, ‘ Well here are the ways it could be dissected or broken apart, or challenged,’ I would end up inevitably trying to rewrite this thing and it will become the opposite of what I intended it to be. And then more importantly, it just wouldn’t go anywhere. I would actually just end up not publishing it or I’d kill it and then I go write the next thing. And there are tons and tons of things that I’ve written that I’ve never published because of that. So, I’m not saying this works 100% of the time, but as much as you can, I would just say you have to shut off the negative voices that are questioning what you’re doing. Because I’ll tell you what, if you get really critical of yourself, you’ll fail before you start. And interestingly, you have to shut that part off your brain, then you have to get into the practice of doing things with that part of your brain shut off because it’s going to be a weird experience. But once you get into the practice of doing it, with that part of your brain shut off, then you start to build a habit around it. And it is really a habit, and you’ll see the producers, the prolific producers of whatever it is they produce – I just interviewed Seth Godin, one of my favorites. I know you like him too, Sharlene. And I think I’ve read all his books. I’ve read almost all his blog posts. It was actually when I was deployed when I first found him and I think I read through every single thing you’d ever read up to that point. It was like ten years of blogging every day, kind of thing, or something like that. And the way he’s able to prolifically produce is because he created that habit. And you can say, ‘Well that sounds very simple’. But it was like, he did it once. And then he did it again the next day, and again the next day. And he kept doing it every day. So now, I bet when he sits down and actually that’s what he said on the interview or one of the interviews – I don’t know if I asked him about this specifically or it was another interview that I’d heard him on – it’s not really a thing anymore for him. It’s what he does. It’s like breathing, almost. But you don’t get there. It’s not like that’s built into somebody. That’s the result of intention, leading to small action, that is done consistently every day, that compounds over time. And so again, if you’re at that point where you’re struggling, chances are it’s something internal and you need to shut off that part of your brain because I’ll tell you what, most people in real life will never be that critical of you, face-to-face. On Twitter and social media, they will be too, but also if that keeps you in fear, delete that stuff. That stuff is nonsense. That stuff is noise, get rid of it. Publish anyway and get rid of that noise. You don’t need it. It’s not healthy. I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone. And there are people who can leverage social media in positive ways. Fine, great, good for you. I’ll tell you what. I don’t like it. I hate it. I like one-on-one conversations. I like sitting down with somebody. I like looking them in the eye. Because you know what, they’re not going to be awful human beings like you see on social media where there’s this anonymity or even if they’re not anonymous, they think they can just spout off this nonsense and just the vitriol that occurs on it. And it’s, oh man, it’s such a shame. It’s such a shame, because here we have these great platforms that should allow us to just connect with so many different people, and then what comes of it is this nasty dragon, that multi-headed dragon. And it’s sad because then there’s so many people who would have the ability, because it’s at your fingertips to start something and do something. But the same tool that you would use to start something and share something is the same tool that will try to consume you and eat you. So, I just say, shut off the social media too or use it as a tool and nothing more. Don’t participate in those conversations. Don’t be one of those people that’s like a Monday morning quarterback, criticizing other people. In fact, make it as a priority right now to not criticize anyone ever. How about that? Or at least for the next six months, or at least for the next month. In fact, you’re not only not criticizing, but you’re only going to find positive things to say. And so, if you need to use social media, all you’re going to say on social media is something positive. You’re going to find people who are doing something that are positive and you’re going to compliment them on it. Or you’re going to share things that you like. You’re not going to say a single negative thing because you can kind of be that change that you want to see in the world, right? That wasn’t my idea. I’m pretty sure that was Martin Luther King. The point is, it still actually is just as relevant today. So, I could go on and on about that, but just shut off that noise in your head and shut off the noise outside that leads you to be fearful of producing and sharing. Because guess what, the stakes aren’t that high. In the military, people can die. You know when I was deployed, those were the stakes. And I realized when I got into the world of entrepreneurship, those are not the stakes; not with what I’m doing as presumably whoever is listening to this now, not with what you’re doing. Because maybe you’re not trying to invent some sort of medical device, or something like that where maybe the stakes are a little bit higher. But most of us are like doing maybe consumer or B2B type stuff and the stakes are just not life and death. So, don’t make them out to be. And you need to manufacture or set up your world when you do this as if it’s a game. Because a game, you can play and you can lose and you can lose and you can lose again and again. But it can still be fun. You can still grow. And then you can win every now and then, maybe start to win more than you lose. So, you have to approach it as a game. But I think all the negative self-talk, with all the negativity and vitriol out on social media, it’s like the thing that kind of shuts it down before it has the chance to even be planted, let alone flourish and grow into something.

Sharlene: That’s definitely a good point. So, when you made the jump from the military life to entrepreneurship, I mean now you’ve worked with some pretty big names. How did you meet them? How did you reach out to them and did you have doubts in your head when you did?

Tom: Yeah. It’s interesting. I wish – part of me wishes that I still kind of was doing more of what I used to do. But I am in a different way, or it’s a different capacity now. But when I first got started, I was literally just reading all the blogs that I could find that I was interested in. And then any time a blogger that I liked would share somebody else’s blog, I’d read that blog. And if somebody shared a podcast, I’d start listening to the podcast for more on their emphasis. There weren’t many at that time. But I’d listen to those. YouTube was kind of more in its infancy. But I’d try to find the stuff and I was a consumer of it. And then, I started to kind of I guess as I thought about that stuff, part of that was just kind of what you could say is maybe research; or at least that’s what I claimed it to be. Ultimately, the reason I hadn’t started was just fear – fear of all those things I just mentioned. It was actually a kick in the butt from my now-wife who was my girlfriend at the time, who was like, ‘Okay Tom, you talk about these things but you’re not doing it’. And I was like, that’s a good point. I hate being a hypocrite. I was like, I will start then. So, I had to get over that. Sometimes you need an external kick, so it’s good to have good support, by the way. I would say that’s maybe an additional element. Find people that will actually be supportive and push you forward. But, when I was doing that, I was paying attention to what was out there. I was listening to what people were saying. I was reading, paying attention to the words that were being said, what was being shared, who was sharing it amongst whom, what were the ideas that were spreading, seemingly kind of more powerfully what resonated with me. And so yeah, I was just consuming stuff for a long, long time, and then kind of just in my own way taking notes and writing things down and writing down my ideas on things before I ever kind of started. But what was the game changer for me was a couple of things: one was actually starting a blog and actually starting to write, and just share some ideas. That was critical because then all of a sudden, I wasn’t just a passive consumer. I was a creator. Irrelevant of how shoddy that work was, I was still a creator. I was a producer, number one. Number two, then I went to a conference. It was actually a Seth Godin conference. I think the first one I went to was $1500 or $2000 – it was something extraordinarily expensive for me because that was like a month’s wage or something like that. And then I had to fly and stay in New York and stuff like that. It was so expensive. It was easy to have said no and I couldn’t get anybody to go with me maybe because it was expensive. I was like, no, I’ve been reading all of this guy’s books. I want to go see him in person. So, I went and I just took notes. I remember when I was there, there were all these business owners and professionals. They were authors doing all these incredible things. I was just like, “I’m in the army. I’m not doing anything. I’m just here to listen.” So, I took a lot of notes, but from that I connected with a bunch of people and those people, I ended up becoming friends with. Some of them, I thought they were just interesting and doing kind of incredible work, so I interviewed them. One of them was Al Pittampalli who wrote, I think Read This Before Our Next Meeting, which is published by Seth Godin’s “The Domino Project” back in the day. And so, I interviewed him because I wanted to get his ideas and how did he land that, how did he get published through Seth Godin’s “The Domino Project”? The other one was Clay Hebert who also had worked with Seth Godin in some capacity. So, I met him at that event as well. And he is also doing his own kind of entrepreneurial stuff and it was really interesting, so I interviewed him. And then they put me in touch with other people, like AJ Leon who runs Misfit. He’s just doing this really remarkable creative work, so I interviewed him. And then somebody else put me in touch with Jeff Goins, and so I interviewed him. And I was just asking questions and actually it was Jeff who was like – I was just publishing these things in mp3s on my website. It was really ghetto – and so he’s like, “You should actually make a podcast out of this.” I was like, okay I’ll make a podcast. So, I actually created a podcast. I was just asking questions. I just wanted to listen and understand how people were thinking with what they were doing. And then when I did that and people had a good experience being on the podcast or having a conversation with me, they would introduce me to more people. So, it was just one after the other, after the other. And when I was writing blogs, I was kind of doing the same thing. I was pointing out people that I thought were doing relevant stuff or ideas that I thought were powerful and sharing kind of my insights as they started to grow and mine were kind of based more in the military side of things; like how I integrated the military and military decision-making and tactics and military strategy into the world of creativity and art, and writing and entrepreneurship. And so, I can speak to at least the military component and then I would leverage these other brilliant people on the business side of things and just kind of find a mind meld somewhere in there to share. Well, this grew over time because you can imagine the compounding nature of having conversations where that person now refers you to one or two or three more people and that person refers you to one or two or three more people. Pretty soon by the end of the year, I’ve had interviewed dozens and dozens of people and then the conversation would usually oftentimes continue on beyond that. And that’s how I ended up getting started working, was because a lot of people who I interviewed were on my podcast early on and they end up hiring me in different capacities to work with them. And really, really early on it was I think there was a couple of people where I was like, “Hey, you’re doing this really cool thing. I think I can help you by doing this, this and this for you.” And it was pro-bono, and I did that. I just hustled and then I got these testimonials and these referrals and then those people ended up hiring me for other things or putting me in touch with somebody that then paid me. It was like, seriously, if you want a life hack, here’s one: Work for free for a little bit and build up a portfolio. It’s okay. Man, we live in such a world of entitlement where nobody wants to put in the time and effort. They want to get paid on everything they do. I’m so glad I didn’t do that. I’m so glad I didn’t have that mindset, and I think part of my mindset was actually more fear. But it was a positive side of that – so I was too scared to actually charge something. But, I’m so glad because it opened so many doors and it just compounded over time because it was one intro after another; getting a constant source of referrals from big names. It was just awesome because when a big name refers you for something, that person’s really not going to question whether you’re the best or not at it, honestly. I mean, maybe some will but it’s like, whatever, I can do without you because I’m getting all these other referrals too. That’s the position I’m in now because I get to choose who I get to work with. So, if somebody comes to me and I don’t like how they act, I don’t like their attitude or something like that, I just turn them down. I don’t care. Because I have a constant flow of new inquiries and I get to work with all sorts of exceptional people, and even to this day. So, some of the exceptional people I’m working on were because other exceptional people I had worked with still refer people to me. So, it’s like – but it all started by just kind of putting something out there and then publishing a blog and then a podcast, having conversations with no – there was no transaction happening. It was just learning and me trying to share their stuff with other people. That was it. Everything I would do was just sharing their ideas, sharing their insights on my blog, on my podcast, whatever. I wasn’t asking them to buy anything. I wasn’t trying to sell anything. It was just here are their ideas that I’m sharing. And they were very grateful to have and be part of those conversations, and be published on my podcast and to be shared, for me to mention them on the blog. And then so when I went out and they saw what I was doing, they saw this track record of things I was doing, they’re like, ‘Okay, this guy has his hustle and he’s got heart. He’s trying to do things.’ Even probably from their vantage point of how sloppy maybe some of it was, he was at least doing it. So then when I reached out and said, “Hey, maybe I can do these things for you”, and I’m not charging. It was like an easy, no-brainer for them to at least give it a shot. And so, that was the basis of my book Collaborate which was like, hey maybe there are smart people you can team up with and maybe instead of trying to be paid as an employee – if you’re trying to just get started, you just do it for free or even better, just do a revenue split. So, that’s actually what I did after the first maybe one or two projects I did that were kind of small, just to get started. I then would start approaching people and say, “Hey I can do this. We can do this together. You don’t have to pay me anything. I’ll do all the work and then we’ll just split the revenue on the back-end.” And again, another thing that nobody ever approaches me for things like that. I wrote a book on it. It’s so easy. It can be so profitable. You just have to bring some value to the conversation. You have to be able to do some things. But I think that’s it. I think a lot of people are dreamers and they want to do things, but they don’t actually want to put in the work. And so, that’s what I’ve seen. But it’s like this is a practice, a strategy that if you listen to all the smartest people in the world, a lot of them got started in an apprenticeship type model. And guess what? The world just opens up to you because when you work with big names or people who can teach you really useful skills and you don’t have to learn them by yourself or try to learn them by reading any book or try to learn them by spending a thousand dollars on an e-course and not really getting in contact with the person who actually created it because it’s one-size-fits-all and that’s actually not the case. But actually, getting to work with the top thought leaders and smartest people in your industry, guess what, you build a relationship, you do good work for them, they will open doors for you. It’s just the 80-20 principle. I’m like, how do I get to this point I want to get to faster and again, part of it was accidental in terms of just being too fearful of charging. But the other part was after I’ve done that and realizing, hey here’s a value proposition I can make to someone because I don’t have a track record of success yet. But maybe I have a track record of things I produced and little by little, I have more and more testimonials and case studies that I can at least go up to somebody and say, “Here’s where I could see it being a money-making endeavor. We can split the profit. You don’t have to do any work, or your part is really minimal.” It’s the kind of thing, if you’re just trying to get started, that’s it. There it is. I just gave you the keys to the kingdom. Take them, if you want, and open the door. It’s up to you. And that’s where a lot of people just say, “It’s too much work. I’ll go watch Netflix.”

Sharlene: I don’t know! I think we should end it there.

Tom: Perfect. I can’t think of anything else to top it.

Sharlene: I could just keep going but that was, I think that’s a good motivator for a lot of people. Just wondering if you can share where people can find you, how to get a hold of you, how they can work with you.

Tom: I’m going to tell them just to go to your website, Sharlene. You’re going to have show notes for this, right?

Sharlene: Yup.

Tom: Go to the show notes here and check out what Sharlene is doing. Sign up for the podcast and from the show notes, I know you’ll link up my other stuff. But that can be just the simplest thing, listen to this podcast, take notes, listen to it again; really take me up on that challenge there. Those are the keys, man. But you’ll be able to link to me from there. So, go to Sharlene’s blog and podcast and the show notes and you’ll find everything you need.

Sharlene: Cool. Thanks so much Tom.

Tom: Of course.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and listening to LIFT. If this episode resonated with you, I’d appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a review. That way, more people can discover this resource, and together, we can accelerate good change in the world. Thanks so much. Until next time.


003 – Nobody Has Their Ish Together with Marsha Shandur

In this episode, I chat with Marsha Shandur: sales coach, storyteller extraordinaire, and entrepreneur. We dig into the topics of empathy, shame, and storytelling, and explore how they’re connected.

[00:01:16] Mission and vision
[00:03:35] Stand up to injustice
[00:06:48] Increase empathy, decrease shame
[00:10:09] Rotting wound
[00:14:35]  Authenticity, vulnerability, and boundaries
[00:19:03] Practice, repeat
[00:21:30] Friends buy from friends
[00:23:07] What holds people back

Resources mentioned:
Yes Yes Marsha (secret page)
Humans of New York
World Domination Summit
Heroic Public Speaking
Kendrick Shope

Note: Some of the resources above may be affiliate links, meaning I’d get a commission if you use that link to make a purchase (at no cost to you).


Welcome to LIFT, a podcast for you – the entrepreneur, the leader, the creative – who leads change with heart. If you don’t have it all together, you’re in the right place. I’m your host, Sharlene Sobrepeña.

In this episode, I chat with Marsha Shandur, an entrepreneur, sales coach, and master storyteller. We dive into the topics of shame and empathy and how they relate to storytelling. My biggest takeaway was actually a shift in how I view storytelling. In the last couple of years, it seemed to me that storytelling became this big buzzword and was merely used as a marketing tactic and felt, to me, to be a bit too one-sided and self-serving. I learned, by the end of this conversation, that good storytelling – real storytelling – connects us and it increases empathy where none may have previously existed. Let’s get to it!

Sharlene: I like to start it off with a big question.

Marsha: Love a big question.

Sharlene: Just, like, jump in. What is your mission and what is your vision? So, in other words, what is the impact you want to make in the world with your work?

Marsha: Okay. That is a great question. There’s an overt one and a secret one.

Sharlene: Whatever you want to share.

Marsha: Yeah. I say overt and secret, but I wonder if it’s just that there is one but the other one seems more worthy. So, I want to pretend that that’s my real vision because I want to seem cooler than I am. But, ultimately, I want everybody to understand that it’s okay, nobody else has their ish together either because most of us walk around thinking that everybody else does and we’re the only failures. And I want people to understand that because when we think that everybody else has it together and that Facebook is the truth and not just a series of highlight reels, then we feel shame, and in shame two bad things happen. One is that we don’t – it’s really hard for us to do good in shame because, who am I to help these people and I’m such a loser. That’s what we think. And the other thing is that in shame, people behave very, very badly and we see that. We see that with what’s happening in my home country and we see that with what’s happening – I live in Ontario, in my province right now. We see that with what’s happening with our cousins in the States. I feel like shame drives people to get rewards from punishing other groups. And shame – shame also empathy, it’s very hard for those two things to co-exist and lack of empathy is the root of all evil. So, I want people to understand that nobody else has it together either. They’re doing just fine. To reduce that same, and I also want to grow empathy because the secret mission is activism. It’s like, that’s the kind of big grand overture and then the underture is like, I want people to be telling stories and I want to sneak activism to people who don’t necessarily think of themselves as activists, and show them that they can just sign up to and sign some petitions. They can just vote differently and use their dollars differently. They don’t have to put on the balaclava and smash a cop car window. But they do have to do something.

Sharlene: So, activism to you is doing something about something they feel passionately about?

Marsha: Activism to me is standing up to the injustice in our systems. Yeah, because you can do something about – if you’re super racist, you can do something about that if you feel passionately about it. But I don’t think so with activism. I mean it’s a kind of activism, but yeah, I feel like I kind of have this… I started my business when I was kind of in this world of one foot in this kind of super hardcore activist world, with all these people who have been activists since they were teenagers. Everyone had been arrested and maced at some point. And then the other foot in this world of yogis and life coaches. I think up until 2016, I felt very frustrated because I felt like a lot of them were like, ‘Well, self-care is the number one most important thing’. And I’m like, yes and we have to reach a hand back and help people. And then Brexit happened and Trump happened, and suddenly everyone was like, ‘Maybe there’s something else that we need to be doing in recognizing our privilege’. Me too, ten years ago I didn’t. I read celebrity magazines and thought generally good things happen to good people. And so, I felt like for a long time, I was like, I want these people to wake up. And now I think everybody is waking up but some people still are shying away from it and I think it’s showing people that you can engage with this stuff and it doesn’t have to, you don’t have to be out on a march every single day. And you don’t have to be throwing eggs at Doug Ford’s house – although if you want to do that…

Sharlene: You didn’t hear it here.

Marsha: Yeah, you didn’t hear it here. Oh my god, if that actually happens then delete – I mean, whatever – I don’t think he’d come after me.

Sharlene: No, we’re not ashamed.

Marsha: Yeah, I’m not ashamed. I hate Doug Ford. Yeah. So, I think that stuff’s important and I want people to tell stories. I run a storytelling show in Toronto and just after – I can’t remember, I think it was early 2017 and it was just after Trump had been inaugurated and we were still having the Brexit fallout and I felt so deeply and I think I’d been to two Muslim band marches in a week and was feeling like my choices were either engage with it and fall down a hole of despair or turn away from it. And that to me, felt morally corrupt. And then we had the storytelling show and at this moment I was thinking, there’s this third thing we can do which is just profoundly connect with each other and remember the human goodness in people and remember our…like that Mary Oliver poem, where she says “Just let the soft animal of your body want what it wants”, and remember we’re just soft animals and we can love each other’s soft animalness. And so, I think that’s another important part of storytelling is sometimes it’s about spreading the word of activism; sometimes it’s about increasing empathy and reducing shame. And sometimes it’s just about having some goodness in the world that is outside of that world of politics or not politics.

Sharlene: Do you have any tips on how to increase empathy and decrease shame?

Marsha: This is like no other interview I’ve ever done. This is so fun. I think tips on increasing empathy is just engaging with people outside of your realm of experience. I don’t know. I mean – that’s a really hard question. That’s a really good question. Increasing empathy – I think honestly, one thing that I find really helps me is reading stories. Like Humans of New York, I think does such an amazing service because it tells all of these stories of these very, very different people. And now, of course he travels around the world so you get to hear these stories from completely different cultures and you get to read about someone’s experience during the Rwandan Genocide. I probably would never meet anybody who I would get that story one-on-one from, but it gives me this understanding. And I think when a story is told well and he elicits very well-told stories from his interviewees, you can find an emotional connection to it. So, no, I have never with such privilege and luck, have never been in a genocide but I know how it feels to be scared. So, when they talk about being scared, I can relate to that. I know how it feels to miss someone, so when they talk about missing someone, I can relate to that. And so, I really think that stories are the key to growing empathy, or using emotion in your stories or reading stories that have emotion in them are kind of the key to growing empathy. And I think the more you can experience that sort of thing, then the more likely you’ll be able to do that. And then decreasing shame, I mean I started a whole Facebook group to exactly do this, which is called “I don’t have my ish together either”, where we all post things that we’re genuinely a bit ashamed of that make us feel like we don’t have our ish together. And I think that’s a big thing with decreasing shame. It’s just talking to people and finding out the… it’s like, no one’s going to admit to you that they don’t have it together if you’re not admitting that you don’t. If you’re just always talking about how perfect your life is, people are going to be too afraid to say, well my life isn’t perfect because then I think you’re going to judge them. So, I think find spaces – and sometimes, it’s not safe to say, I don’t have this together, I don’t have that together because people will judge you or be harsh which usually says a lot more about them than you. So, find safe spaces to be able to talk about what isn’t together for you and then hopefully, other people will be able to talk about that. I’m pitching a book on “I don’t have my ish together either” or whatever. It’s about a movement that’s a bit grandiose, but on the concept, and one of the chapters is going to be how people can create the scenario in their lives but I haven’t written that chapter yet. So, in the meantime, if you’re on Facebook, joining the group is one way to do it. You could start your own thread. You can just come into the group and literally copy-paste what I write every week and just put that on your own Facebook group, Facebook page, just with your friends; which is basically saying once a week let’s talk about one thing that makes us feel like we don’t have our ish together. That’s what I would suggest. And also, really understand that nobody else is perfect, really trying to understand that it’s hard.

Sharlene: Very true. So, we’ve been talking about shame for a bit. Do you have a definition of shame?

Marsha: This is so good. I’m really enjoying this. You’re already pushing me. I love doing podcast interviews, but I’m often saying the same things in all of them. So, it’s really fun to talk about something so different and so challenging. Definition of shame, I think shame is – here’s a very specific one. I think shame for me is when I feel like I’m rotten, like I feel like a rotting wound or something, that people would look at you and be like ‘Ewww’. They would kind of flinch; if they really knew what was going on, they would flinch if they looked at you. And I think that’s what shame is, it’s the feeling that that’s true of yourself and there’s something inherently broken or rotten about you. And you have to cover it up by taking 50 selfies to just put the one perfect one on Instagram. And I’m not saying I don’t do this. I’m saying I do, do this because I’m so comfortable with this definition. But yeah, I think that’s what it is. I think it’s worrying that there’s something inherently worrying or rotten about you. It’s unfixable and people will flinch away from.

Sharlene: But we all feel it, so it’s all good.

Marsha: Yeah, but it’s hard right? I teach this stuff because I need to hear it. I still fall prey to this. I still go on social media and assume – I remember this friend of mine, a few years ago, was in a relationship. And they would post all these pictures on Instagram and it didn’t hurt that they both were like eye bleedingly good-looking. And at the time I was having a really hard time in that relationship that I was in. And I would look at them and I would be like, I swear, I’d be like ‘You f-ers’. I love you and I want you to be happy only but I also kind of was like, ‘Damn’. And I saw the friend and I was like, oh blah blah. And he was like, ‘Oh, we broke up’. I was like, ‘Wait, what?’ And then of course we talked, and it turned out there was all this stuff going on behind the scenes and I didn’t know because they don’t post that on the selfies. And I still, years into – I’ve been doing ‘I don’t have my ish together’ for three years I think and I still do it every week because I need it so badly. And so, it’s really – we can say, Facebook is just a highlights reel, but it doesn’t make us not get sucked into it. And I think it’s like, you know we are influenced by the media in the ways that we’re all systematically racist and homophobic and misogynists. And the media doesn’t help that because the media is full of white, straight mostly men. So, it’s feeding our brains to be like, this is normal. Kids’ books, apparently kids from the age of I think 5 already start thinking that boys are smarter than girls. I met a lady who told me all these facts. And children’s books, I think this is in the U.S., 97% of children’s books have a male protagonist. And I didn’t believe that until I had a baby and I started realizing that it was true. The little caterpillar is a man. The little gorilla is a boy – not a man, a boy, whatever. But you know what I mean, he’s male. The little gorilla is ‘he’. And I said, what should we do about it? She said, when you read to kids, switch the genders. So, that’s what I do. And also, as a lesbian parent, I’m like, little gorilla – her mother loved her, her other mother loved her, her aunts and uncles and enbies loved her. But that kind of thing gently, gently feeds in so of course, little kids think that boys are smarter than girls because boys get to do all of the things. And so, in the same way, if we can say to ourselves our Facebook is just someone’s highlight reel, but then if we looked through Facebook and it’s all perfect, of course on a subconscious level, we’re going to be like everybody else. Life is perfect because that’s what I’m seeing. And so, it’s really hard to avoid this stuff. I feel like we actively have to work at it in the ways that I’m trying to do that in terms of racism and ableism by following lots of people on Instagram who are people of color and people with disabilities, and people who are different from me, to just get them into my eyeballs to be like, this is the world, not the media- presented world.

Sharlene: You mentioned safety earlier. How can you create safety to tell your story in a stressful environment? And secondly, how can we maintain a balance between authenticity and vulnerability, and boundaries?

Marsha: Okay, so the first thing I would say is when you’re telling any story publicly, whether it’s standing up in front of a room of ten people or on your blog or whatever, then you have to have emotional distance from it because your audience has to feel safe. It’s one thing telling your story to your best friend, of course you can fall apart on him or her, or a family member or whatever. But if it’s any kind of audience, your audience has to feel safe so you have to have emotional distance. You can be emotionally affected by it, but we need to know that you’re not going to have a breakdown. Otherwise, we’re not going to be safe. And so, first of all, that safety is your concern. It’s something you need to take care of. It’s not about other people taking care of it. Equally, you can tell a room full of strangers if it’s a 12-step – I mean, a story that’s affecting you and you’re not emotionally distanced from it if you’re in a 12-step meeting. That might be a place because you know the confines of that where it is okay and that the audience isn’t going to feel unsafe because it’s this very organized, safe container. But generally, if you’re telling it for any kind of entertainment, you must have emotional distance from it. And in terms of telling a story in a stressful environment or feeling safe, so that thing, number one is to make sure that you’re okay with it. And secondly, read the room. I do a lot of corporate workshops teaching storytelling and there are stories I don’t tell in those corporate workshops because I know that they would find them too personal and they wouldn’t feel safe. But then I’ll do a workshop at World Domination Summit and I’ll tell that story because I know that those people are like a bunch of mostly personal development people who can hold space for me as we say in the self-development world. And so, I can be more vulnerable then. At my storytelling show, people get super vulnerable because they know it’s a safe environment, because they make this really big deal at the beginning about making sure that nobody talks and encouraging them to shush each other. I’ve never had to throw anyone out, but I would. I almost did once because the people told me to throw him out because that would make the person on stage not feel safe. And so, read the environment and then alter your story accordingly.

Sharlene: But what if you read the environment wrong? How would you adjust?

Marsha: People will always follow your physical cues and that’s what they’ll believe. So, act as if you’re totally comfortable and confident. I once did a workshop for a corporate group and this was very early on and I told a story that I didn’t think was too personal, but they were like, ‘Woah’. So, I just acted like I totally meant it and I was totally comfortable with it. And then they kind of get confident off your confidence. They’re like, oh I guess she meant to do that, even though inside I was like, “Oh god what have I done”. And in terms of your second question around authenticity and vulnerability, generally, I feel like there’s an extent to which you’re being vulnerable, if you’re being authentic, you’re being vulnerable. Don’t be like, ‘Oh, and then this terrible thing happened to me’ if it didn’t happen to you. But there’s another kind of aspect of safety where sometimes there are other people involved in the story and you don’t necessarily want to throw them under the bus. You might want to tell a story about a hard time that you had in a marriage, but you still have to co-parent with that person. So, you’re not going to tell it publicly. And so, in that case, I think it’s okay to bend the truth in some ways as long as you keep the emotional truth the same. So, maybe you’ll say you were going through a stressful time at work and when it was actually in your marriage. Maybe you say you’re going through a stressful time with a friend of yours, with a best friend or something. But the emotional truth is the same, the way that you emotionally responded is the same. That’s where the authenticity happens. You change some of the identifying details, that’s okay, again in a story because the story is a performance whether it’s written or spoken.

Sharlene: So, you mentioned it’s a performance. How important is practice to storytelling?

Marsha: I would say it’s very important. Some people can just go off the cuff and every single time it lands. I think fewer people can do that than think they could do that. And again, it depends on the environment. If you’re standing it up, if it’s a fairly informal meeting or something, you can riff a little bit. But if you’re standing up on stage in front of 1200 people, you practice. I remember when I went to – Michael Port has this amazing conference called Heroic Public Speaking Live and when I was there – Amy Port, oh it’s Michael and Amy Port, who do it together, sorry – and Amy Port did a session on rehearsal. So, it’s a big room, there are a few hundred people that are there. My guess is that most of you, sometimes you nail it and sometimes you don’t nail it. And when you’re on stage, you have a bunch of natural talent. Sometimes you’re totally brilliant, sometimes you’re not. I was like, yeah. And she went, the difference between those two is practice and rehearsal; and it was like, goddamn. She’s hardcore. She’s like, you need to do a table read where you sit and go through and underline things in the way that you’re saying them. And then you need to do it in front of three friends, and then you need to do it in front of 20 people. And then you need to do it in front of 50 people, and then you need to do a dress rehearsal. And then, maybe then, you’re ready. But definitely don’t be afraid to practice – and practicing doesn’t have to mean in front of people. Practicing can mean alone in your bedroom. You just need to make sure if you were saying the story out loud, that you practice that out loud because it’s very different to reading it in your head.

Sharlene: Good point. So now, you’ve worked with hundreds – is that correct – hundreds of clients on how to become better story tellers?

Marsha: Wait, can I say one more thing about practicing? I’m sorry.

Sharlene: Of course. Go ahead.

Marsha: One thing about practicing is like, there’s a big myth that people who are really good storytellers, it always just falls out of their mouth. But most of us, and if I may include myself in that thing, most of us figure out at a pretty young age that when we tell a story and everybody listens, then that makes us feel like we’re inherently lovable or worthy or something. And so, we practice as we’re walking around. I think in stories you and I have this, and I’ll walk off and I’ll think about how I would tell someone about this interview. And so, don’t think that we’re not practicing. We might not always be conscious of it, but as we’re walking around, we’re constantly refining and refining. Anyway, sorry, what were you just saying?

Sharlene: That’s interesting. So, it’s like become a habit to you?

Marsha: Yeah, totally.

Sharlene: So, I was going to ask how has improving their storytelling skills, honing it, help their businesses if they own businesses?

Marsha: It’s huge because – Kendrick Shope, who’s my sales coach, who taught me, who took me from having no idea how to sell to now being someone who teaches sales – one of the things she always says – excuse my impression of a deep Southern accent – she says, “All things being equal, friends buy from friends. All things being unequal, friends buy from friends.” But when you’re selling to someone, generally they’re not a friend necessarily, especially if you are doing it online. You’re having to speak to hundreds or hundreds of thousands, or sometimes millions of people. And you’re having to try and make a personal connection with each one. An easy-peasy way to do that is to tell a story. When we tell stories, that’s generally how we bond with people; when we meet them, we swap stories. When you tell a story well, which is to say you have tension in it, which is to say you have emotion in it, then people’s brains release dopamine (reward) and also oxytocin (bonding and trust), so they trust you more. Again, you need trust in order to be able to sell and I feel like especially for – I work with a lot of speakers and I work with, in terms of the individuals, I work with people who often have personality-based businesses. So, they’re doing some kind of service or they’re selling courses, but you’re kind of buying into the person, brand Marsha, as much as you’re buying into whatever it is you’re buying. Then, it’s important that people feel like they’re friends and feel comfortable with them and storytelling does that.

Sharlene: So, what holds people back from sharing their stories?

Marsha: I think people think that they don’t have any good stories. I think people think that their stories have to be really exciting in terms of narrative. They don’t. Really good storytelling is all about small little moments. And actually, the more relatable your story is, the more – they did a study recently where they asked people, they basically rated where the people enjoyed hearing new information or hearing about something they already knew, that they were already familiar with. And people prefer the thing that they’re familiar with. You would assume that people prefer hearing novel information, but actually people prefer the thing that they’re familiar with. So, you can tell a cool story about when you jumped over a bear pit and ran away from the FBI or you can tell a story about some small experience you had where I’m like, “Oh my god, I had the same experience”, and it feels really good to me and you tell me that I’m not alone if it’s anything where I might feel shame, for example. And so, first of all, I think they don’t have enough good stories. Secondly, I think people often get bogged down in the details and they don’t know how to edit down their stories. The way to do that is to think, what am I trying to get across and then do I need – look at every piece of this story and think, do I need that to be in there? And sometimes cutting out things that happen – I think often people think storytelling is like telling entire true facts. We edit every story because otherwise, even just the story of the last ten minutes would be, if we didn’t edit it, I’d be like, “I was sitting there. She had a screen. She had a microphone. She had glasses. She had headphones and there was a red strap behind her and there was a blue wall.” That would be a banana story and it would last forever. And so, we’re already editing our stories. So, it’s okay to cut out big chunks. Maybe halfway through the story, someone skateboarded through the middle of the ice cream shop. If you don’t need that to get across what you’re trying to get across, lose the skateboard. In literature, they call it murdering your darlings because sometimes you’re like, ‘The skateboard bit is really good’, but you just have to get rid of it if you want to get across what you want to get across. So, I think it’s also editing and I then think sometimes people tell stories without any emotion, and they don’t connect. So, they’re like, I’m a bad storyteller or this isn’t going to work for me. But I think also people think that you have to be a good storyteller or you’re just a born one, and you’re not. And that’s a myth. It is a learned skill that anybody can learn. There is a set of rules. And that’s why we all have that one person who can tell any story and it’s fascinating, and we’ve all been stuck next to that person in a party who we know did something interesting, but dear god when will it end? And it’s because the first person is following the rules and the second person is not.

Sharlene: Okay, so what are these rules in ten seconds?

Marsha: Action scenes, not voiceover. Describe small moments and answer these two questions over and over again: what did it look like and how did you feel? And then you can’t go wrong.

Sharlene: What did it look and how did it feel? So, basically emotion.

Marsha: Emotion and also physical, the five senses – I mean not all five because you won’t always be like, ‘And I walked in and I had a taste in my mouth and I could smell this’. But just generally describe the room and then tell me how you felt. Describe what happened. And then what happened? And then what happened? And how did you feel? And then what happened? And then what happened? And how did you feel?

Sharlene: Cool.

Marsha: Yeah. And stay away from commentary. Don’t tell me your philosophical opinion on what happened. Don’t tell me how this relates to all humans or relates to your life in general. Save that for the lecture.

Sharlene: A lot of people do that, though.

Marsha: Yeah. That’s a lecture. It’s not a story.

Sharlene: That’s true. Cool. I think I want to end it there, end it strong. So, yeah, just want to thank you again. Do you want to share any projects that you’re working on? And you mentioned the Facebook group, maybe you can just remind us of that and where else people can find you.

Marsha: Yes. So, I’m going to make a secret webpage that is and on there, I will put – and you can link to that – the ‘I don’t have my ish together either’ Facebook group. I’ll put my show True Stories Toronto – I’m really bad at saying the name of my show when I talk about it. I have a monthly Q&A called Yes Yes Questions, which is just like an hour where you can jump on with me and ask me about literally anything like storytelling, networking, business, love life, family stuff, whatever you want. And I do that about once a month which I’ll link to that as well. And I’ll also put a link to – I have a series, like a little blog series, which is five blog posts on how to tell stories. They’re five really short blog posts. You read through them and you’ll have the building blocks to tell compelling stories. This has been fun and so interesting, and so not what I expected this interview to be. I love it.

Sharlene: Oh, good. I’m so glad you had so much fun. I had fun too. Thanks so much, Marsha.

Marsha: Thanks Sharlene.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and listening to LIFT. If this episode resonated with you, I’d appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a review. That way, more people can discover this resource, and together, we can accelerate good change in the world. Thanks so much. Until next time.