In 2008, Pat was laid off from his dream job as an architect, but he pivoted and built a website to help people pass the LEED building exam. Today he is an esteemed leader in digital marketing, podcasting, and marketing.
You may have heard of his two podcasts: Smart Passive Income and AskPat. Smart Passive Income has achieved over 25 million downloads, and at one point ranked as the #3 overall business podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Pat is also the author of Let Go, Will It Fly?, and Superfans. In his spare time, he advises Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building schools in low-income communities as well as CovertKit, Teachable, and Squadcast.
Pat is personable and friendly, as is almost every Filipino person I’ve ever met. His goals do not involve buying an island or driving a Lambo, but rather, securing his family’s financial future, retiring early, and helping others achieve the same things.
Get ready for some down-to-earth, practical advice from power podcaster Pat Flynn on this week’s episode of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast!
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Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with the remarkable Pat Flynn:
Guy Kawasaki: I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People, and now, here's the remarkable Pat Flynn. Guy Kawasaki:
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
My name is Guy Kawasaki and this is Remarkable People. This episode's remarkable guest is Pat Flynn.
In 2008, Pat was laid off from his dream job as an architect, but he pivoted and built a website to help people to pass the LEED building exam. Today, he is an esteemed leader in digital marketing, podcasting, speaking, and writing.
You may have heard of his two podcasts: Smart Passive Income and Ask Pat. Smart Passive Income has achieved over twenty-five million downloads and at one point ranked as the third most popular business podcast on iTunes. Pat is also the author of Let Go, Will it Fly? and Super Fans.
In his spare time, he advises Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building schools in low-income communities as well as ConvertKit, Teachable, and SquadCast. SquadCast is the product that I use to record my podcast. I love it.
Pat is personable and friendly, as is almost every Filipino person I've ever met. So we start off by discussing the Filipino culture. His goals do not include buying an island or driving a Lambo, but rather securing his family's financial future, retiring early, and helping others achieve the same things.
Do you think there's something in the DNA of Filipinos that makes them friendly and happy because I have never met a Filipino person who's not friendly and happy!
Thank you. I'm half Filipino, and I think knowing what I know about the Filipino culture, it's very much about family and giving and serving others first. This is exactly why if you ever go to a Filipino party, just way too much food - first of all, there's just food everywhere, and before you leave the door, the auntie is going to come to you and say, "Oh, here, bring this home,” and she'll give you a plate and some foil, and she'll let you take even entire trays of food home because it's really all about helping others in this culture. It is the same way in many cultures, but especially in the Filipino culture. I get that from my mom, for sure.
I know a lot of cultures, and I have to tell you that the Filipino culture is the friendliest and the warmest culture there is. Canva has a tech support and development staff in the Philippines and they are just the happiest people. Anyway, I digress. This is not what the topic of this interview is about, but I just- maybe you had an explanation.
Now, a serious question, your focus is called Smart Passive Income, but in my study of your background, it certainly doesn't appear that you are at all passive. It looks to me like you work your ass off.
So what is passive about Smart Passive Income?
The interesting story about Smart Passive Income, the domain name that I selected in 2008, I had gotten laid off for my architecture job, which was really tough for me. At the time, there were a lot of people like Tim Ferriss who were writing about lifestyle design and that kind of thing. I wanted to, as I was building my business, share what I was trying to do openly on the internet.
I started a website and the idea was using a lot of Tim Ferriss inspiration - how can I build a business in a way that allows me to not trade my time, one for one for the dollars that I was earning? How can I invest my time up front, so that I can build something so I could create something that could serve an audience and not have to always be there after I build it, such as software, courses, books, et cetera, and still be able to do other things? So Smart Passive Income was the idea. There was definitely a keyword research play in that instance that was a highly searched for term.
I'm very thankful I selected that even though very similar to the four-hour work week. You're like, "Tim, really four hours a week? You're not working four hours a week." It's very similar. I know I'm very actively building my business, but at the same time adding smart on top of it and getting in front of all the other people who are using terms like “passive income” or “get rich quick” and things like that in a way that would just take advantage of people.
I'm so glad that I can step forward and go, "No, passive income is what you want, but that's the last step of the process." It is a lot of hard work and research and investment of time upfront to build something that can then be automated, whether it's automated through software or automated through people that you might hire.
Canva for example, obviously, there's a lot of people who work there and a lot of great people who work there, but at any moment in time a person can sign up and get value from it. So the idea is how might I build something in a way that a person can automatically sign up and immediately get value from it?
In the beginning, it was helping people pass an architectural exam through a study guide that I had created and then later on it became an iPhone app company that I later sold. After that it became websites that I had built to take advantage of advertising to generate an income and then it became software and then it became books and it became online courses, and now a community and SPI Pro. Smart Passive Income, it's beautiful because people want that, and I go, "First of all, you're going to have to work for it." When people get over the fact that there is no such thing as getting rich quick, then they start to realize, "You seem to be the guy who knows how to do it and I'm willing to follow you on that path."
That juxtaposition just popped out to me because it doesn't look like your passive to me.
Yeah, no. You're not the first person ask that.
What percentage of people can actually make a living with this kind of smart passive online business income?
I think anybody has it in them to potentially create a business that could serve others. A business that serves others is somebody who cares enough to solve a person’s problem or certain groups of people’s problems. I think when a lot of people approach business for the first time, they want to build the next Tesla, they want to build the next Apple, they want to build the next fidget spinner that everybody in the world can use but that's the wrong way to approach it.
If you build a business for everybody, especially in the internet economy, you're actually building a business for nobody - nobody's going to know that you are for them, especially when there're so many other people fighting for them. So when you think of the entire world as made up of a bunch of little worlds and every little world has their own set of problems, pains, inconveniences, little frictions that you could potentially solve, then you have the ability to have compassion and empathy for that group of people to get to a point where you can build them a solution that eventually turns into a business.
Case in point, a couple years ago along with my videographer, we noticed a problem in the videography space, a lot of people were having trouble with their portable tripods. So we had built a tripod called the Switch Pod, and this was a solution to a very specific problem. It launched to the tune of a half million dollars and several thousand backers on Kickstarter in 2019, and has since become an incredible business that continues to run on its own.
In a way, it is somewhat passive because at any moment in time, a person can purchase that item on Amazon or on our website. We have a third party such that when a person orders, it automatically gets shipped to them, either through Amazon or our warehouse in Utah, which is all automated. It's kind of neat, and it did not happen overnight, it took thirteen iterations of that product and two years to come up with the right solution, but we cared enough about that group of people having been in that audience ourselves, to work that hard and get through all that muck to create something that solved the problem and does so very well.
Would you say that Pat Incorporated is a collection or a portfolio of businesses that are in various stages of passivity, if that's a word?
Yeah, this is true, this is true. A lot of people come and say, "Pat, you're doing all the things. You're like a jack of all trades." And sometimes they even add the “master of none” situation on top of it, but I like to say I'm the Pat of all trades - master of fun, and the beauty of this is when I can build something and I'm having fun doing it. When I'm having fun, I want other people to have fun too.
I use my podcast, my YouTube channel, the stage, books to share that fun and show people the insides of it and part of the fun is the challenge within it. I don't always just share the wins. In fact, I usually share mostly the failures along the way and people enjoy that because it's more relatable. When they can see that despite the failures that a person who maybe didn't even know anything about that industry in the first place but cared enough about immersing themselves in that space to learn about those people and build them something and still succeed, it gives a lot of people inspiration to believe that they can find a little mini-world out there that might have some problems and struggles that they can go out and solve that would then contribute to making the world and the internet a better place which is my goal.
Can you just describe the mindset of this successful person? What does it take?
Number one is empathy. I said that word already but it's something I cannot stress enough. When you cannot just put yourselves in the shoes of the person you're trying to serve but truly feel what they are feeling, then you are more capable and able to help and serve them.
I know a friend of mine he had wanted to help people get out of debt, but he himself was not in debt - he was a financial advisor, and he saw a lot of his clients were struggling and he wanted to create some products to help those people and so his first step was to empathize. You can only hear so many stories and really understand what they're going through, but when you yourself are going through that painful struggle, then you're able to feel it on a whole 'nother level and that is a huge advantage.
So what he did was - and this is maybe outlandish and maybe a little bit too far - but he purposefully put himself in debt - did not pay certain bills on time and did certain things to get him in financial trouble so that he could understand what it really felt like to be in that situation. So having a bill sent to your house that says, “This is the third notice and we might collect your possessions,” that feels very real when you actually receive it versus just hearing somebody else talk about it.
I really wanted to share that story because immersive empathy is really the solution to building a business from scratch. In addition, a characteristic that's very important for somebody is - Gary Vee talks about this quite a bit - it's the idea of micro hustle but macro patients. I think a lot of us have in this world of on demand, this idea that success can happen overnight, that we can request it and it's going to be there and if it's not there, then maybe we weren't meant for it and that's absolutely not true.
I think we've just gotten spoiled by Netflix and Google who tell us our search result came in at 0.0000491 seconds, and we have to remember that success takes time. Because it takes time to learn about a person, it takes time to come up with different solutions, it takes time to fail enough to understand the right direction to move forward in.
So this idea of empathy being important but micro hustle meaning you want to get to the next failure point as soon as possible. We don't want to fail, but failing is okay, and this understanding and allowing yourself the grace to fail is a key component as well.
I grew up in a household - very traditional - where when I would come home from school with a ninety-six percent on my math test. I was scared. I was scared to show it to my dad because he would go - this was every single time - "Ninety-six percent…Okay, what happened to the other four percent?" And I was conditioned to be as perfect as I could be.
If I didn't get perfect, it meant four to five hours of additional work to perfect on those problems, or that math set that I had gotten incorrect. So coming into college, four-point-two grade point average, graduating magna cum laude from UC Berkeley, it was just perfection was everything. I had lived life to perfection.
I had gotten an amazing architectural job in the Bay Area and started working on some incredible projects, including Apple stores and a lot of retail stores, hotels in Las Vegas, huge projects. I was the youngest person in my firm to get promoted to job captain doing everything the way I was supposed to do, and then 2008 hit. Despite having done everything perfect, the economy said that I couldn't have my job anymore and I got let go, and I was very upset.
I was very... I felt betrayed by the system; I felt betrayed by the path that I was told that was going to support me if I went down that path, and it did not. So it was at that point after a few weeks of depression and just trying to figure things out in my head, that I realized that I had to take control and realize that I needed to build something in a way that if I were to fail, it would be my own full fault that it would be 100% on me and I want to play in my own sandbox now because I've been playing in somebody else's sandbox too long.
So the origin of macro patience, micro hustle and this idea of perfection not being a part of the equation. In fact, that's just an excuse I found. Now I use that thought of, "Oh, I have to be perfect or I'm a little bit nervous about this." I actually gravitate toward those areas now. If I'm not a little bit nervous about something I'm trying or doing, then it probably means I'm not extending myself, I'm not getting outside of my comfort zone and I'm not trying to grow, I might be complacent and I don't want to be complacent.
What happens if your two kids come home with a ninety-six now? What do you tell them?
And they have! The first thing to do is congratulate them on the hard work that they did and to ask them if they did their best, and that's it. I don't hawk on those problems that had gotten. Truly I do want to because I'm still conditioned to be that way. I want to know what they did wrong, but I know that if I focus on that and not focus on the good that they did do, then it's going to condition them for a life that I don't think they would be very happy with. Because in life, nothing is perfect, and in life there are so many opportunities to be grateful for things we already have and have already accomplished and I think that society has just tuned us out of that. I don't want them to come home scared about doing well. That doesn't make sense to me.
Somebody told a story, I think it was Neil deGrasse Tyson of a spelling bee. There's a spelling bee, and the first child comes up and the word is “cat,” and they spell it, “Q-B-Z. Cat.” That's completely wrong, absolutely wrong. Obviously. The next person comes up and they spell “cat,” K-A-T. It's almost there, but it's still defined by the spelling bee rules absolutely wrong and incorrect. Then that last person C-A-T, spells it correctly.
Now, I think the person who spells it Q-B-Z and K-A-T, should be treated differently because one was closer than the other so let's award - not award - but let's realize that this person who was very close is just one click away from getting it, and we can help them from that spot, and the person who maybe answered way incorrectly, well, they're in a different spot and they need a different kind of help, and this is why I love schools right now that are very tailored to a specific child than their superpowers.
What would happen if your kids came home with a seventy-seven as opposed to a ninety-seven?
If they came up with the seventy-seven, obviously, there's a lot more room to grow, and in that, I would look for where they might be interested in growing. Perhaps it might be a result of studying, that's been a case with my son.
He chose one day, because we give our kids options, we don't say, “Go do this.” We say, “Here are three things you can do. Which one do you think is the best one to do?” So there's going to be cases where he chooses, for example, playing a video game instead of reading or studying and he'll come home with a seventy-seven, and we'll ask him, “Why do you think you got to seventy-seven on this exam? And do you think you could do better? How might you do better? How might we help you do better?” So this is the coaching approach.
There's a very good book by Michael Bungay Stanier called The Coaching Habit, which is almost like a fun way of doing Inception. One of my favorite movies with Leonardo DiCaprio where if you can have the person who you're trying to help come up with a solution themselves, they are more likely to actually do the thing.
It's the reason why during the pandemic we started gardening, because we saw that our kids weren't eating a lot of vegetables. So we said, "Okay, if they could own their own planter in the backyard and grow their own vegetables, my hypothesis is that they're going to be more likely to eat those vegetables because they would have had a hand in them." And that actually became true, and they eat those vegetables now. So it would be a series of questions to help them understand that they need to have better study habits, and to see how we might be able to get them more excited about those subjects.
Because I know that in school it was hard to work on things that I wasn't excited about. So to bring excitement into that, even though it might not be necessarily a topic or subject they might be excited in, but to somehow make it exciting, what I think help encourage that study behavior that would help them succeed.
What's worse: the fear of failure, or the fear of success?
These are two common reasons why people don't do anything sometimes and I find it so interesting when I first heard about the idea of the fear of success. I'm like, "How is that even possible? Isn't that what we all want?" But studies, data, my own experiences show otherwise. It's actually something people often try to avoid, and there might be different reasons for that, there might be because we don't necessarily even think that we deserve it. That's actually what I found to be a very underlying truth for many peoples that we often don't feel like we deserve the success, and that is scary - in fact, I think that's scarier.
Fearing failure at least might encourage a person to figure out their way around that failure. A fear of failure might encourage them to get mentorship so that they have some support. A fear of success means walking away from the path that may be your best path moving forward simply because you don't think you deserve it and that is really scary to me because I think we all deserve success. I think we all deserve to live a life that would make us happy.
If we are purposefully - or even subconsciously - walking away from a life that we know we would be happy in for some reason, then what are we walking toward? Why are we doing what we're doing? And what do we have to look forward to? That's really scary to me. I think I would much rather have a fear of failure than a fear of success.
There's been many podcasts, books, blogs, everything about overcoming your fear of failure. How do you overcome a fear of success?
I think you succeed small. You mentioned a bunch of books, The War of Art, is a great one, Steven Pressfield. Although just talk more about the resistance and how to overcome that self-doubt. But I don't know if there's a lot of literature about the fear of success.
So for me, I think the fear of success can come from surrounding yourself with people who are going to lift you up, who are going to be there for you and continue to root for you when you reach those new levels. A lot of fear of success comes from not even knowing what those doors might open and maybe being afraid of those doors.
Maybe the fear of success comes similar to the fear of what might happen if you win the lottery, the fact that you're going to know that there's family out there who you've never heard of before who are just trying to come your way because they found that you now have some money. Actually, going back to some of our conversation earlier about Filipino culture. That's an interesting thing about Filipino culture. I know this because I've worked with Filipinos and I've hired VA’s in the Philippines who do not want more money, because the more money you have in the Philippines, the more of a target you have on your back, generally speaking, and people were very happy with a relatively speaking low wage to support their family and they didn't want more, even though I offered them more.
Fear of success, I think, seeing somebody else who's gotten to that level and seeing how much happier, how much more they could have, how much it's okay to be there, I think is a great thing. This is why I think mentorship, whether that's a direct mentor, who you actually have conversations with, or a virtual mentor, somebody who is a few steps ahead of you who can paint a picture for how safe it is in that space.
A mentor to me right now is a person like Michael Hyatt, somebody who had once worked for a publishing company, who was all-in on his work and is now slowly stepping away from his position, but now has his family involved in helping take over the job, and now he is taking care of his health and taking care of his family and his grandkids, and that's where I want to be when I'm his age.
So I look at that, and I go, "Wow, that seems safe to me. That's inspiring." And thankfully, he and I have a connection, and we can chat while fly fishing about those kinds of things every once in a while. But that is a wonderful question. I don't know if there're... Do you have any books or anything that's spoken on that? Because that's a big problem and I don't see a lot of people talking about it.
I've had about 100 episodes, and about fifty-five of them are women, and many women bring up imposter syndrome, not one man has brought up the imposter syndrome, let's just say. So, that's a data point too.
That is interesting.
Have you figured out how to figure out what you're meant to be?
Yeah, you try a whole bunch of things till you light up, till you spark up. This is why I've been talking a lot about education a little bit and kids and such. That's the part of life I'm in right now. I have an eleven-year-old and a nine-year-old and they're thinking about their future. But I think it's quite unfair to ask a child one of the most common questions we ask kids which is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It almost forces the child to decide that maybe they're not even ready to make, they don't even know their options yet.
So instead of asking questions like - I'm not saying everybody should change that question, just for me, personally - I think that a better question is, “What lights you up? What gets you excited?” Because through that excitement, you start to understand the personality behind a person, and through understanding that personality, you might be able to then back into a career or a job that might help support that kind of person.
So finding out who you are, who you're meant to be, you can't answer that question unless you try to find out who you are, or who you're meant to be, which means experimenting, trying new things. This is why I think that when you're in your twenties, for example, trying a whole bunch of different things, different careers and different hobbies, that's the perfect time to do it because you have the least amount of risk. I think a lot of people who are perhaps my age, want to do that, but we have an inherent risk, because we have a family to take care of and a mortgage to pay and bills and et cetera. Any decision like that could potentially make that a little bit more difficult to do, but I love the idea.
This is why the school that my kids go to, they do something called an exploration for six weeks. For six weeks, they can choose between four to five different areas that the teachers decide to focus on, and it's not, "Hey, everybody, we're learning this one thing." It's, "Hey, kids, there are five things that you could choose from, go to the one that you might be interested in. If you don't like it anymore, try another one the next week and try another one the next week."
Then after the six weeks, they now then go into what's called a deep dive, which means the one that they selected from those options, they now focus and work on that for a certain number of weeks till they make a presentation or finish that project and that usually ends up in...and hasn't been for the last couple of years because of COVID, but it usually means all the parents come into an assembly room and the kids then present these things and I love it because they ask the parents to not go to their own child first.
In fact, they ask the parents to go to their own shop last so that the kids can get practice talking to... It's just a beautiful system and I think more schools need to be like that, but you don't know until you try it. This is hard from a - I keep going back to Filipino culture - but it's just my wife and I just watched the Jo Koy special last night on Netflix so it's literally right in my head, and comedians often call out the stereotypes of certain cultures because it's funny; because it's true.
It's funny in a sense that if you were Filipino and you grew up, you're usually meant to be a nurse or a doctor from the moment you're born, and I know that's the same way in many Asian cultures as well. But is that what's meant to be for this particular human being who has their own particular sets of likes and dislikes and wants and dreams? It's just so interesting to me. Certainly, thank you for sparking this discussion. I just love chatting about these things.
If the way to figure this out is to gather a lot of data and figure out what lights you up, we have to discuss two conditions. So one condition is what lights you up might not afford you financial return. So, that's one. What you love, you can't make money at. Also the flip side which is: you're very good at something, you can make a lot of money out of it, but it doesn't light you up. So what do we do with these two conditions? Because ideally, what lights you up makes you money, everybody can handle that one. It's these other two conditions.
I think we need to find the truth in each of those statements. Is that actually true that we cannot make a living from what we love to do individually? Or are we just saying that because nobody's done it before?
Imagine if we were, like, nobody has created an electric vehicle that's fast and great, so therefore, it's not possible. But somebody figured it out and it's now taking over. So I think that before you discount it, you should at least give it a shot and then you can connect with other people who may be in similar spaces, who may be monetizing in some way, shape, or form authentically. Truly, we live in an age now where you can more likely make a living from the thing that really lights you up more than ever. There're still a lot of factors involved, but now more than ever, that is possible.
There are many tools out there that make that more possible than ever. The internet makes it more possible than ever. There are wooden boat podcasts that gets sponsored by wooden boat companies - that person figured it out and they only figured it out because they put themselves in that situation to figure it out.
On the flip side, I know a lot of people - I go to conferences, I speak a lot - and oftentimes we end up at the bar at the end of the day and we're just chatting, chit chatting and getting to know each other, and I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten into honest conversations with people who tell me that although they have a very successful business on paper, they have a lot of employees, they're making millions of dollars, or they just gotten funded, or whatever the case may be, but they're absolutely miserable. And I always go, “Why?” Because you're an entrepreneur, you can design whatever you want in any shape, or form. Oftentimes, it's because they took the first opportunity, because they didn't think any more opportunities were going to come.
If you've read my book, Will it Fly? you'll notice that the first three chapters - and this book is about idea validation - how do these ideas fit the market that you're going to get into? And how do you actually take a step-by-step iterative approach to validate your business idea before you waste your time and money? But the first three chapters are about you introspectively - who are you and what do you want and what actually would get you stoked. So that when a business decision comes to your table, or knocks at your door, you have a filter now to decide whether or not that actually fits into the life that you want or not.
The other sort of interesting thing that comes out of these conversations I have with students of mine is when we go, "Okay, I want a successful life." Okay, what does that mean to you? They start painting a picture of their successful life, and oftentimes the dollar amount comes into play. I go, "How much money would you need to live this life that you've just painted for me?" And they're like, "Oh, I want to make seven figures. I want to make a million dollars a year."
"Okay, but why?"
"Well, I think that was support the lifestyle that I want."
I'm like, "Are you saying that, or is that true? Have you calculated it?" And it's so interesting, because when we go through an exercise, and people don't want to do this because I think they know where it's leading to, but when we do the exercise of let's get the numbers out; let's do the math. Let's see, for the life that you just described how much you might actually need to support that, it's not even close to a million dollars often, it's 120K to 300K, usually in that range, and it just opens up a person's mind to go, "Wow, I don't need to do this business that I thought I needed to do, or this business..."
A million-dollar business is very different than a 150k business, and especially when you can - going back to what I said earlier - find a little world that has a big problem that you could solve. You don't need very many people to serve in order to allow for this lifestyle that you want as well. It goes back to Kevin Kelly's 1,000 True Fans. You don't need a blockbuster hit or millions of subscribers or millions of followers to make an amazing living and help a lot of people make a dent in this world in a good way. You just need 1,000 true fans, a true fan being somebody who is an evangelist, as you often say. They will spread the good news of your product or your business, your service, your coaching, whatever it is that you do. Somebody who's going to go to bat for you and spread the word from the inside, you just need 1,000 of them.
If you had 1,000 of those people paying you $100 a year, which is nothing compared to what fans pay for some things. I definitely pay more than my fair share for Back to the Future related items every year and memorabilia and Pokémon stuff, but $100 a year times 1,000, that's a six-figure business right there. It just makes it much more graspable and more... It allows people to understand that, "Wow, maybe this thing I am capable of doing."
This is what Seth Godin calls the minimum viable market, which is different than the minimum viable product. I love that concept.
You are successful, obviously, but there are many people who profess to teaching people how to be independently wealthy, or how to get success in all this kind of stuff. So how can people separate the self-help guru bullshit artists, from experts who really can help you make your life better?
It's two things. Number one: what proof do they have? When I got into this space and I started sharing my findings from my architecture online startup that I was doing, people very quickly started to notice that I wasn't just talking the talk like everybody else, that I actually had my own business already created and successful to pull these case studies from and to share these stories from. It was interesting because especially at that time when blogging was taking off, everybody and their mom was creating a blog about how to make money online, but they all said the same things, because they only had each other to share from.
When you build your own success story or you help others create success stories, then those become unique things that people will remember in that hero's journey. That's the one thing I've noticed about my story is that it's very much, and I didn't know this ‘til years later, but it is a hero's journey.
When you go through a hero's journey, from a place from before to them transforming, challenges, struggles, to then coming out much better on the other end, people gravitate toward those kinds of stories, and people want the same things, people will want the same guide along the way that everybody else had to get there too.
Number one: if you are going out there and looking for help, I think first gravitating towards somebody who matches your style, your values, your goals, is smart to do. This is why I'm very much - I mentioned him earlier - but Michael Hyatt is a mentor to me and somebody who I care deeply about and who I follow because he's living the life that I want to live when I'm there. So that's number one.
Number two: how do I trust him? He has a lot of accolades. He has a lot of proof that he's been able to do some of the things that I've been trying to do and some of the stuff that he teaches. He had created a conference called Platform Conference, and he wrote a book called Platform a while back that was talking about the best ways to put your content out there. He wasn't just making that up, because all the stories were about how he after transitioning from CEO of a publishing company built his own platform. So it was case in point, it wasn't just made up, here it was.
The second thing is when you can find other people who were successful because of them and you have real, genuine conversations, not just a testimonial, or not just even a video on YouTube talking about this person, but a genuine conversation in person over coffee or drinks or while fishing to really feel how this other person made an impact on their lives, so that you can genuinely understand whether or not that's true or not, and it does take some due diligence. I think that it's hard, especially with a lot of these people who are teaching these kinds of things, they're so good at what they do.
They're just amazing copywriters, they know exactly what words to say at the right time and who to say it to and they're using tactics like retargeting on Facebook, which is all these things aren't bad. All these things are powerful. But with great power comes great responsibility, and hopefully you can find somebody who you could feel is genuine and it might take time. I just wouldn't jump into things really quick.
So if you're listening to this, and you're like, "Okay, this Pat Flynn guy sounds interesting." I have courses, I have trainings, don't get them yet. Do your research. Talk to people who have learned from me and ask questions - please ask questions. If you're not sure about something, then find out. Asking questions is one of the most powerful things we can do and that would be the formula to find somebody who you could trust online.
Do you ever long for being part of a larger company with colleagues, water cooler structure, perks, Christmas parties, those kinds of things? Because you are more or less eating what you kill. Do you ever long for being part of Google or Apple or Facebook?
No, no. Number one, because I don't think that's where my superpowers are best utilized in a company like that. And number two, and I've had opportunities like that before, I've had companies reach out to me to partner with them or even there was a package that somebody had offered me to potentially become CEO of a company that would have been very fruitful for me but it would have also meant that I would have had to come into an office every day with a suit. There are benefits of that.
When I got laid off, I miss the water cooler talk, I miss talking about Sunday's game on Monday, I wish there were more Christmas parties, and that's hard to do with a remote team now. But at the same time, I also realize that there're so many more pros to this to the style of business that I've created for myself based on what I know the kind of life I want to live.
I'm not saying that's what everybody else should do too, but I'm living my life and I'm showing examples of it. I'm showing what I like and what I dislike, what's working, what's not and should people want to come along the ride, I'm more than happy to help out and share what I'm learning along the way, which is what I have been doing, but no, I am not.
There's no dollar amount that would allow me to want to work for a huge corporation, I feel like there are better ways of being able to actually influence that company as an advisor, which is actually what I've been doing. I'm advisor to eight, nine different Sass companies online mostly in the crater economy space, to help them in a way that allows me to share what I'm feeling, what my thoughts are about certain things feature potentials. But most of all, making connections with people and just being a part of the customer base myself of some of these products, I can help influence these companies in a way.
And I've helped a lot of these companies grow from mid-six figures annual to eight figure annual companies and more, and the cool thing about that is, I don't need to work on the day-to-day. Every other week, I could get them a call and share what's happening and what my thoughts are, and they take that and they can use it however they like. But I think I might want to do more of that because I could still be at home with my family.
I could still go to Target on a Tuesday at 1:00 pm when there's parking everywhere and there's nobody in the store and I can just come right home. That's to me what is most important to me, is the freedom and the options to have the ability to do things like that or drive up to Disneyland on a weekday because it's more crowded on the weekends. But also, I get into moments where I am working ten, twelve-hour days on an upcoming launch or on a book or something like that so it's definitely not regular. There are some cons to working in this way.
Sometimes work does bleed into the personal stuff, and that has been something that I've had to create boundaries around and have had tough conversations with my spouse about, but it took some time, but we're in an amazing place where those boundaries are very clear now, and I can very much kind of move between the two even though they're all in the same location.
How old are you?
It took me thirty years longer than you to figure out what you just said. Trust me.
Some people never figure it out.
One of your books is about super fans, and I of all people of course would love that concept. So how does a company develop super fans?
We have to understand that a super fan is not somebody who finds your business and just becomes a super fan overnight, they're not created the moment people find you. Super fans are created by the moments – plural - that you create for them over time, and so there's a few moments that we can discuss.
There's the first interaction and that experience. That first, not just first impression, but first experience that a person has with your brand, and there's a few things you can do, especially online that would allow a person to go, "Wow, I want to come back here." They're not a fan yet, but we want to take them from a casual viewer or casual reader, casual listener to an active listener, somebody who now subscribes, who apparently looks forward to the next thing that you have to come out with to consume in some way, shape, or form.
So how do we do that? There's a few things you can do. Number one: to develop small, quick wins for a person. We just talked about how on-demand everything is now and how people want results now. Okay, give them a result now, a small one that's manageable, that is achievable for a person. So if you want to change a person's life, which many businesses do, that's great, but if you want to change a person's life, start by changing their day first. Start with something small, start small to go big, and that quick win might be a PDF guide that a person could download to then accomplish something that they were trying to do in five or ten minutes.
I often recommend that the first email person gets after they subscribe to your newsletter should be the most helpful, most ridiculously mind blowing tip that you could offer, because then once you do that they're in.
I remember a friend of mine, when I first learned about him, I actually wasn't a fan. His name was Ramit Sethi from Iwillteachyoutoberich.com, and he just was a little off-putting to me. I much prefer the blogs and financial people who were speaking more about long-term retirement and things like that.
This person was just too over the top for me until he came up with an article that said, "Hey, I can help you save twenty percent on your cable bill in fifteen minutes." Very specific, but it caught my attention, and it caught the attention of the entire blogosphere at the time. This was in 2007, and the article was essentially a script that you could just call your cable company and you read the script that Ramit gave to you and you would save a certain percentage on your cable bill. So during lunch, during architecture, I called my cable company. I had fifteen minutes, nothing big. I called my cable company and I saved twenty-five percent of my cable bill in that moment and you can be sure I consumed every single piece of content that Ramit came out with from that point forward because he got me something immediately.
All these other blogs were like, "Put twenty-dollars into an account and when you're sixty-five, then you can enjoy it." No, Ramit gave me something I can enjoy and that quick win now. So offer a quick win to your audience, that's number one. Number two is speak the same language.
Before you go-
You can speak of - oh, yeah?
I want you to come back to that but I'm so curious - what's the gist of what you did with the cable company?
It's essentially a polite threat to leave. It costs way more to bring new people in than to bring somebody back at a lower cost. So a lot of cable companies are willing to - you should find the article, it just works. Phone company, cable company for television, it works most of the time. That, again, that's just like, "Okay, well, that makes sense." He explained it. It wasn't just go read the script, do it. He explained why this would work and I did it, and I was just, "Wow! I like this guy." So small, quick win – and there's a quick way for everybody who's listening as well.
Number two is: speak the same language as your audience. My wife is a huge fan of the Backstreet Boys, massive, huge fan. When I asked her about when she first remembered this band and why she loves them so much, she accounted very vividly a moment where she had just broken up with her boyfriend. She was fifteen years old.
She had heard a song on the radio - again, this is back then there was no iPod, no on-demand music, it was just the radio - and so the radio was playing the song that she had heard many times before but didn't care for it, but this time she did because every single word in this song was describing literally what she was feeling in that very moment, and this song was called “Quit Playing Games with My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys.
If you think about it, Backstreet Boys, their target audience back then were girls between thirteen and eighteen. What happens in a girl's life between thirteen and eighteen? They fall in love, they fall out of love. Okay, how do they describe it? Do they talk about romance and marriage? No, they talk about “stop playing games with me; don't do that to me.” It's the Taylor Swift model – “Let's create a song about a very specific moment using the words that particular audience uses,” and it becomes a number one hit.
So you can create your own version of a number-one hit by literally speaking the same language. So we talked about how important it is to understand the problems and the pains, but when you describe it back to them in a way that they understand, they now know what they're going through. So that language is really key in literally having spreadsheets of the words that they use.
We have this in our company, where we just have specific key phrases that our audience uses to describe things so that in our emails, in our social messages, in conversations, we can just bring that back and they go, "Wow, finally, somebody gets me." And that's where you want a person, that's a trigger. That's the moment where people go, "Okay, this person knows what I'm going through." And then the third thing is to bring some of your personality into your brand, and especially for personal brands obviously, and I think a lot of us worry too much about putting more of ourselves out there but that's what people connect with.
If you go to a conference, all those conversations you have with people who you're meeting for the first time are so surface level, that's how people are feeling about when they discovered you for the first time online. What is this for? What do you do? Okay, how's this going to benefit me. But the moment a person finds something out about you, that is relatable to them, that they can understand, that they also do whether you went to the same college, or you're both fans of Back to the Future, or you're both authors, or you both have kids, you gravitate toward that person now.
You meet somebody at a conference, and you both have went to the same college, you're stuck like glue now because you finally found somebody like you. So bringing that online again, allows people to find out that, "Okay, this is a person I want to follow. So that's the first step.
Casual talk to active audience, and then we want to bring them into a community to allow them to not just speak to you and them to speak to you and you to speak to them, but them to find each other. This is where a person can form an identity as a community member under your brand.
This is like fans of Taylor Swift are called “Swifties.” You got the fans of Justin Bieber are “Beliebers,” they actually have a name for themselves, these communities, and you can have that too and the reason that is important is because that's where people now feel like they belong to something. There's actually a culture there. When people feel like they are involved, they're invested.
Okay, let me say that one more time. When people are involved, they're now invested and so when you talk about long term customers, when you talk about the most engaged people in your community, they're not people who've just found you, they're people who've been in there and they feel safe, they feel like they're with other people like them, and they can talk in a more safe manner.
That's why community is great, and I'm very bullish in community right now. I think community is going to be huge for all businesses moving forward, private communities like communities off of Facebook, ones where you can set the rules and you own that space, and then some people from there will become super fans, just naturally, but there is one special thing that I love to do that can nudge them over that edge a little bit or that line and that is to create memorable moments by surprise. The by surprise part is the most important thing because if you go - let's say you have a spouse or a loved one, and you say, “I love you” to them every night before bed –
“Good night, honey. I love you.”
“Good night, honey I love you.” It becomes routine. Not that it has less meeting, it's just expected.
But imagine you as a surprise, you go to her office at 1:38 on a random Tuesday with just a single rose and just say, "Hey, honey, I just wanted to bring this to you because I was just thinking about you." Those are the small..."Oh my gosh, why doesn't my husband do that?" It's those little things that are unexpected are the big moments that get people to fall in love and evangelize and wave your flag high because they feel something now, and that's to me what a super fan is. Somebody who feels your brand, they're not just a part of your brand, they feel your brand.
When your favorite sports team loses, you literally have a sinking feeling on the inside of you. You feel that loss, but you also feel the win, and you feel it so much that you will at the baseball game high-five and hug people in a safe manner, of course, who you've never met before, because you're all wearing the same logo. That's community. That's where super fans are developed and that's when people who are on the inside start bringing people in, and, guess what? They're not coming in cold anymore. They're not coming in casual. They're coming in the middle as active because somebody like them is a part of it too.
You touched on something that just this morning I was trying to figure out which is, let's say people listening to this have decided, “Pat, absolutely, one thing we have to do to develop super fans is to build a community.” And the first question I had was: where? Do you make it a Facebook group? Do you make it a Twitter group? Is there some independent platform? Literally, how would you build a platform?
I think, ultimately, you would want to have and host your platform outside of somebody else's sandbox. I'm a huge fan of in-full disclosure.
I'm an advisor to this company as well, it's called Circle, and Circle is a beautiful marriage between Slack and how clean it is, how the conversations are laid out on the side. Facebook groups and all the fun things you can do you in there with events and communication and direct messaging and group messaging, all that lives in Circle, and so I'm a huge fan of Circle. I just can't say enough great things about them. But again, I'm a little bit biased as an advisor but I wouldn't even start there.
I would start with whatever you have access to that allows you to connect with your audience right now; It could be Instagram, and you can create a community of people who speak the same language, who feel a certain way, who feel like they belong to something anywhere, start there and then what you could do is you can bring a few Alpha users over to a separate platform to engage with you, to fill in the space a little bit to tell you what they like and don't like knowing that it's being built and they're being a part of something special for the first time and then you launch it to a founding group, where you now bring everybody in and you make a lot of noise about it.
It's like you've spent some time making the housewarming party and you've invited a few friends over to make it decorated and bring the orders and stuff. And then now is the time where everybody comes into the housewarming party and everybody's invited and can come in and feel special, feel welcomed.
When you bring people into a community, their first experience is in there which we call “onboarding,” is very important. Jay Klaus who's a friend of mine, who's our community director says you always want to answer that question. Okay, what now? So a person signs into a community. Okay, cool. What now? “Oh! Go introduce yourself in the ‘Hello’ area so that people can meet you.” And of course we have people who then respond to people's handshakes are never left unshook. Okay, what now? “Okay, now that you're here, go find one of the spaces where it relates to something you're working on right now and go and ask a question that you might have.” Okay, cool. Now what? “Now go find somebody who is struggling, who you can help and serve and answer one of their questions.” Okay, now what? “Okay, RSVP for the next event that's happening, our town hall meeting in our community that's happening next Sunday.” Cool.
It's just like - that's the trouble with Facebook. You get in there, and now what? And everyone’s overwhelmed. There's so much to do here, I don't even know what's coming next. So that's why I love platforms like Circle. But start small, you don't need a huge community to make it special.
You might have a neighborhood community with four people who you have beers with on the lawn every Saturday, and that's a community. You can build something like that online and connect more people and it might start with four, then it becomes fourteen and then forty and 400, and who knows, one place where people can feel safe. You know what I mean?
The moment this interview ends, I'm going to check that out. Another book is about how you can tell if a product is going to take off?
What's the answers to that question?
This answers the question, Will it Fly? That's the name of the book. How to test your next business idea so you don't waste your time and money.
Now we already talked about the first few chapters, which surprisingly go into more of self-inspection first and, “What do you want?” So let's just say we have a clear idea of what we want and we might have some idea on what can help us get there.
So we're already in chapter four. But now we go, “We have these... Maybe we have many ideas.” I know, obviously, a lot of entrepreneurs who have 1,000 ideas, and they don't do anything because it's just, “How do we pick one?” Or they might have zero ideas to begin with. You have to pick one thing to start with, though, but realize that this is just a process that you're going through to understand more about it, you're not selecting anything permanently.
I think a lot of us - I think Chip and Dan Heath talked about this in their book Decisive - where when we make decisions like this, it often feels very permanent and a lot of decisions that feel permanent, like the logo that we have for our brand, are actually not that permanent at all, but it just feels like it. So we put a lot of pressure on ourselves or don't make the decision because of that. So pick an idea or a topic or a subject manner or an interest that you have.
Let's now build what's called “the market map.” This is why there's a lot of plane analogies in this book. You're going to be flying a plane somewhere and you're going to try to figure out where to land it, but you don't just go to somewhere without a map or plan at least so we need to create the map. The market map is a spreadsheet that you create with three Ps, three columns, each with a word that starts with P.
The first column you create is now having this topic or interest in mind, make a list of all the places, that's the first keyword, places where your target audience or this group of people go, exists, hang out, where are they? Make an entire list. Online, offline, communities, forums, everywhere, conferences, make a list of all those places. Then in the middle column, you make a list of all the people, some of those people may overlap with some of those places, and they own those places or whatever. But make a list of all those people, the people who have already spent the time to earn the trust of that particular audience.
They are the players in that space. They are the influencers, the leaders, the authorities, the authors, the podcast hosts, et cetera, make a list of all those people. Then the final column is a list of all the products and maybe even putting the price in there too. So you can gauge sort of the price points of each of these things, and these are the things that are already there to serve this audience. Just that one exercise alone, you now have this beautiful map of what the space looks like.
I'll tell you, a lot of people who I work through this process with, they go to that place with their first idea. They now have the map in front of them and they go, "I don't want to be in this land. This is not where I want to go." How amazing is it to figure that out now than after you've spent all this time and money and effort to build something and then test it? So it's actually a good thing that you can go, "Wow, okay, I'm looking at the lay of the land here, this just doesn't excite me as much as I thought it did.
Or you might have an opposite effect. You might go, "Wow, look at all these amazing people, look at all these products." An initial thought often is, “How can I compete with these people, it's already saturated?” Is what we often say, but at the same time, it's very much proven that this market is survivable. So that's a great understanding of, "Okay, other people have made it here too, maybe I can make it." But now you have an understanding of the places, the people in the product, so that you can find your landing pad or your spot that you can land.
You might find through a little bit of research that, “Wow, everybody here is talking about dog training,” because that's maybe the industry and there's people who target big dogs, there's people who target small dogs. But then you might find through your research that, “Wow, there's nobody here talking about helping people with very violent dogs.”
The reason I bring this particular case up is because this was actually a student of mine who wanted to start a podcast and start a brand helping people with her dogs, but if she would have just created a dog training website for Valerie, you're going to be competing with every other dog training website, but when we figured out what her superpowers were, which were training very violent dogs, she never really owned the fact that was what she was good at. That's just something that she knew she was good at. We decided to own it.
We doing this market map exercise found out that nobody was putting their stake in the ground, owning the idea that, "Okay, I'm here to help you train your dog if you have a very violent dog." And the beauty of this was now she had a list of all the places that she could go to, to write guest posts, to communicating forms, to help those people in the way that she would be able to help them. The list of people. Guess what? Those are no longer competitors; Those are partners.
When she wanted to get on other people's podcast, she had now a list of people whose shows she should be on, who then invited her on the show because they did not have the specialty that she did. She found her piece of land to stake her claim. Then she developed her own products after that. So the market map exercise is great. You might need to do that with a few of these ideas until you find a particular plot of land that you want to live in. Then when you're there, it's about who am I really serving here? And how might I be able to best help them? So in the book, I share how to have conversations with people so that, no, you're not selling anything, you're understanding them more so that you can have this true immersive empathy as I call it.
Immersive empathy, so that you're in that space, and you understand more about what they might need help with, all whilst collecting the language at the same time, which we spoke about earlier. Those give you the tools to then move forward in a way that is actually then directed by the audience you're serving. This is the audience driven model. This is removing the guesswork.
If you're an entrepreneur and you're guessing, you haven't done enough research, it doesn't mean you're going to nail it, if you understand, but at least reduces the chances of absolute catastrophic failure, because you were just throwing darts versus, “Okay, I've gotten some guidance for my audience, I understand what they need help with, I'm building this thing and I've actually spoken to people about the fact that I'm building the thing,” and then you get to the point where true validation happens, because people can tell you they would buy something, or they could tell you they love it without actually participating in that thing or purchasing it later. But it's when you actually start charging for that thing, even before it's built.
For example, if you're creating online course, you can walk people through that course and charge them up front, to work closely with them to build the actual curriculum with them, which feels very special, if you're on the receiving end of that, but also is great for you as the creator, because then you can ensure that the content you're putting in there is exactly what that target audience needs. So guess what? By the end, you have this beautifully laid-out course, maybe already recorded or you at least know what the material is so you can record it perfectly or as perfect as possible and you have testimonials of people who have already gone through the process. It's just a beautiful way to iterate your way to success, versus guess your way and just hope for the best of your way to success.
Today, if you're starting, would you start with a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, clubhouse? What would it be? Where would you start?
If somebody were to ask me that question, I would say, “You're asking the wrong question.” No offense, but we need to first understand our audiences that we're targeting first and then see who the players are in each of those spaces that you mentioned - you developed this market map. So you can then have some removal of guess work as to whether or not a podcast would be best or a blog would be best, or video channel would be best.
There's a lot of different factors in there, you might find that maybe nobody's really talking about this kind of stuff on YouTube, which then you have to take the approach of, "Okay, why is that? Is it because it's not working for anybody or nobody has actually come in to step into that place yet?" And the beauty of each of these things that you mentioned is that they could each be experimented with. You might have to take the exploration approach like we talked about, and then go into the deep dive once one of them really hits for you.
So understand your audience first, and then back into the form of content that relates best to how you can best serve them. Let's say you are super skilled with video and you want to show people how to do video, then it's obvious that a podcast would likely not be best to show how you technically help a person with video editing. So some things are obvious in that way, but at the same time, you also want to combine that platform for where you can best serve your audience to what would get you to get up and do it even if you don't want to.
So if you're forcing yourself to get on video, and you absolutely hate it, what's going to happen if you're going to get excited about it up front? You're going to do it because you're excited. But what happens after that honeymoon period ends? Are you still going to have the excitement to get on a video when you don't want to get on video?
Or this is why I started with... I really leaned into podcasting because I was afraid of putting myself on camera for years. I would do a podcast even if I didn't want to because I loved it so much, so combining those two things is the answer in my opinion.
If I were a better interviewer, I would have figured that when you said “Places, people, and product,” you already answered the question I asked after, but anyway, I digress.
I want to mention Mark Manson the author who wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. He says, "I'll give you a succinct..." I'll give you the Mark Manson succinct explanation of what you just said which is you have to find a shit sandwich that you love to eat. For you, making a podcast, or for me, making a podcast is a lot of work there's a lot of editing, a lot of stuff, but it is a shit sandwich that I love. So I know I found a true calling for me.
I love that. I love that. We share the same love for shit sandwiches.
I guess so. Yes. Okay now quick AB because your personality and I love these lightning rounds, it’s like a little window into your soul path, okay?
So literally answer A or B?
I'm going to give you two choices, you just give me-
iOS or Android?
iOS, all day long.
Sony or Canon?
Blue Yeti or Shure?
Shure. SM7B, baby.
Ring light or spotlights?
Ring light over spotlight, but natural light over every light.
Balut or lumpia?
Oh, lumpia 100%.
Oh, I better say that-
I'm not all about the exotic-
Okay. I’ve got to say it right. “Lumpia” is the right pronunciation? I eat it all the time, I just don't know how to say it. So balut or lumpia?
Yeah. Lumpia for those of you who don't know, that's like a Filipino egg roll, and balut is a delicacy, it is a chicken embryo, half formed in the egg and that's a "no" for me.
Okay. Book or E-reader?
Book. I got to turn the pages.
Moderna or Pfizer?
Levi or Lucky?
Aisle or window?
Dang, that's a good one. If I'm traveling with my family, it's aisle because kids are better behaved by the window but if I'm traveling by myself, definitely window so I can just take a nap and not bother anybody.
Tesla or Mercedes?
Mac or PC?
Depends on what I'm doing, but mostly Mac.
Facebook or LinkedIn?
Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?
Helen Mirren or Judi Dench?
Ted Lasso, or Only Murders in the Building?
And the last, but not least, Photoshop or Canva?
Canva baby. I passed the test. No, for real, I often share examples of different software for people and I always go, "Oh, you could use the Canva version of something or the Adobe version of something."
Now, both great, obviously, but if a person is trying to learn how to do something for the first time, getting something so advanced, is going to stop people. So it's funny because that question I always say, do you want the Canva version of something, or do you want the Photoshop version of something?
I wasn't paid to say that by the way, for you all listening!
So, that's Pat Flynn. All around good guy, marketer, podcaster and author. I hope you learned a lot about digital marketing from my friend, Pat Flynn. “Saramappo” is what say in Japanese. Now, people are going to write in and say “Saramappo” is not Japanese.
I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People. Thank you so much for listening. My thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick for making another remarkable podcast. My thanks to Luis Magaña for transcription, and to Madisun “Drop in on Guy” Nuismer, for her help and research.
All the best, the Remarkable People podcast team, and all the best to you. Be well, and until next time, Mahalo and Aloha.
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