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If you don’t have an interesting challenge, you can’t create an interesting story.

People enjoy stories where someone faces, and ultimately overcomes, a big challenge.

Think of any TV show you’re watching to right now. In any given episode, someone wants something, they can’t get it because of some obstacle, and they spend the course of the show doing what it takes to try to get it.

Every compelling story is comprised of several common elements and you can use these elements intentionally to craft a compelling story.

Aaron Dowd joins me to talk about creating your interesting story to get people addicted to tuning in to your content.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Without big goals, you don’t have a compelling story.
  • There is a period of persistence in every great story.
  • Why not be the person creating the interesting story that other people want to watch?
  • There are things in your life you’re saying yes to that are keeping you from setting a big goal and from pursuing an interesting story.
  • Use different tools to engage people with your story in different ways, because different people will resonate differently.
  • The road to success is ridden with failures.
  • The people with compelling stories are the ones who own up to their mistakes.
  • Embrace discomfort—that is how you’re going to grow.
  • If you want people to care, commit to a medium and commit to it weekly.
  • You can’t make meaningful progress on 10 things every day.
  • If you want to reach an audience, you can produce educational, inspirational, or entertaining content.
  • People stop paying attention to a story when it never changes or evolves.
  • Comfortable people don’t create interesting stories.
Show Notes
  • 04:29 Sean: Aaron wrote about this topic on Medium and I read this article a couple of months back. It was about creating an interesting story. He wrote about how whether it’s a book, a film, or anything, people are looking for an interesting story, for someone who is faced with a challenge. They want to overcome and succeed. Maybe it’s quitting their job. Maybe it’s buying a Lamborghini. Maybe it’s flying to the other side of the world, growing their own company, writing a book, or slaying a dragon.
  • 05:25 People are looking for a story about someone who is facing some kind of challenge, something that seems almost insurmountable, and they’re rooting for that character or that person. That’s the kind of story we really get addicted to. It’s the same with TV shows. Someone is in prison who’s not supposed to be in prison because they didn’t do the wrong thing, so they’re trying to escape the prison… You keep tuning in because you want to see them overcome this thing. Today, we want to talk about using that idea of creating an interesting story to get other people interested in your content.

Have a Big Challenge

  • 06:06 Aaron: With this blog post I wrote, it all started because I was reading a book about writing. The author was explaining how every compelling story has five elements. You have a character who wants something, but something prevents the character from getting what he or she wants. They struggle against that force, and they either succeed or fail. That made sense to me. Thinking about the stories I follow and the people I’ve been interested in over the years, I see that in everything from movies and fictional characters to people in real life.
  • 06:46 I started thinking about it, and I put myself in those shoes. What is my story? If I’m going to have a story, what do I want? What am I struggling against? I thought about it, and I realized that if I don’t want something, if I don’t have something epic that I’m trying to achieve, I don’t really have a story.

Without big goals, you’re floating through life and you don’t have a compelling story.

  • 07:22 Sean: It’s not bad. There isn’t a right or wrong, but if you want people to get interested in what you’re doing and what you’re about, you can’t just be floating through. There’s enough mediocrity in the world, on the internet, and in people’s feeds that gets ignored. It’s the white noise, the base level stuff that gets tuned out because people aren’t paying attention. They’re looking for something interesting. They’re looking for a standout person. I’m planning another show about this topic, but people who are successful did something in the beginning. They faced a challenge, persisted, and showed up every day.
  • 08:08 They were the ones not going to the parties and they were making sacrifices. They were waking up early, working hard, putting in the hours and the effort. Everyone else was saying, “What’s the deal? Why won’t you come to our party? Why won’t you play games? Why are you working so much? Why are you so weird?” There’s something weird about people who end up becoming stand out successes. In the beginning, you’re ridiculed for that characteristic. You’re different, you’re not participating, playing the game, or going through the system, and people ostracize you until this magic threshold. Once you overcome that and you get on the other side and you become successful in other people’s minds, suddenly they celebrate that same weirdness. It’s like, “Look how different he was! Look where he came from and how he did things differently. Now, he’s successful!”

People will ostracize you in the beginning for the same traits they praise you for later when you’re successful.

  • 09:25 Aaron: You were talking about this in the Community, right Sean?
  • 09:28 Sean: I’ve been kind of mulling over it and processing this thought.
  • 09:34 Aaron: I do think a lot of people want an audience. They want it, but they’re not sure how to get there. They’re asking, “What do I have to do to get people to pay attention to me?” That’s kind of what we’re talking about in this episode.

Why Create an Interesting Story?

  • 09:58 Sean: Start with the why, and then we’ll talk about what that looks like.
  • 10:03 Aaron: It comes back to your goals. Let’s talk about Sean for a second. He’s got an interesting story. Why do you have an interesting story, Sean? He has things he wants to accomplish. When he started off, he was perfectly happy just doing the things he loved doing—fixing computers, doing hand lettering, and stuff like that. At some point, something changed. A switch got flipped. I was preparing for the episode and thinking about this this week. People are going to hear me and they’ll say, “Sean? Sean’s no the kind of person who pursues an audience,” which sounds strange, because Sean’s been working to grow an audience, and he has a large one.
  • 11:02 I am the kind of person who much more looks for people’s appreciation and adoration. This is some self-awareness that I’ve fallen into this year based on some things that people have said to me, and I’m okay with that. This is about personality and what we want out of life. I don’t think Sean craves attention the same way I do. I love attention. That’s my personality. At some point, though, people started asking Sean for help, and there’s a generous part of him that wants to help people. He realized that the way to do that was to teach what he knew and share what he had learned, and that was the starting point for Sean. That’s when he started growing an audience.
  • 11:52 Sean: There are different parts to the story. There are different layers. In the beginning, it’s about getting to do the kind of work that you love. That’s the first challenge, and a lot of people aren’t doing the kind of work that they love. Aaron and I have reached that point where we get to wake up, and the work we do is the work that fulfills us. It wasn’t always that way. I know that people know my story, but I don’t think as many people know your story, Aaron.
  • 12:24 Can you talk about how you got to where you are now? Did you wake up one day and say, “I’m going to edit podcasts for a living,” snapped your fingers, and suddenly people were sending you audio files and money?
  • 12:38 Aaron: It definitely was not an overnight thing. It did take a long time. When I was 12 years old, I started playing drums. I fell in love with playing drums, and up until 18, 19, and 20 years old, all I wanted to do was to be a professional drummer. You can’t make a lot of money with that. There was nothing else I wanted to do at the time, and I didn’t have any job skills. I didn’t go to college. I didn’t get a computer-programing degree. I didn’t know how to make websites or any of that kind of stuff. I ended up working some pretty terrible minimum wage jobs, like a lot of people do. That’s fine. It’s part of being a teenager and a 20 year old.
  • 13:29 I just got tired of it. I was in my early 20s, and I thought, “This can’t be how I spend the rest of my life.” I still wanted to be a drummer, but I needed to find something to do to make money, so I started teaching myself web design. I thought that was a job I could do from the road, if I wanted to tour. I’ve told this story a bunch, but over time, I learned how to make websites. I learned how to do basic graphic design—Word Press and simple, simple stuff. I fell backwards into podcast editing, and that story takes a while.
  • 14:08 Five or six years later and after tons of work, hours, talking to people, and figuring stuff out, I do have a job that I really love now. It hasn’t been easy. It wasn’t magical the whole time, and there were a lot of hard times.
  • 14:27 Sean: Aaron kind of glossed over the key there, and we all do—it’s the “Five or six years later.” There are a lot of people right now who feel like, “This is great. You need a cool story. My story is boring. I’m just sitting here trying to make a living. I can’t even think about trying to make a cool story, because I’m just trying to get by and do the grind. I’d love to be able to continue doing work I like and make money.”

There is a period of persistence in every great story.

  • 15:00 Your unique story is not something you’re going to know right now. It’s something you figure out looking back. You have to push through the “show up every day for two years” period. Push through that, and on the other side, you realize that you created a story. I created hand lettering every day for two years. Nobody cared. Every day for two years. A lot of people say that they’ve been showing up for two years, but they just mean that they started working on something two years ago and they poke at it every once in a while.
  • 15:34 I’m saying, show up and do the work every single day for two years. That’s when you’re going to break through. For me, that’s when I started getting clients, people saying, “Hey, can I buy your designs on shirts and prints?” Only then did it start to turn into this thing. Aaron didn’t wake up one day able to edit podcasts and make money the same way that I didn’t wake up one day able to create art and also make a living. This episode is about creating an interesting story, and I consider our stories interesting.

How to Get Over Your Fear of Being Boring

  • 16:28 Aaron: We didn’t necessarily have stories in the beginning, but at some point, we started telling a story. Back in 2013, I was still in the struggle phase. Where was Sean? He had been doing client work for a while. He was at the point where he was starting to transition into teaching, and I didn’t really know that teaching was a thing. I kind of knew that podcasting was a thing, but I had never thought about doing it for myself.

People are afraid of putting their stories out there because they’re worried no one will care or that their story is boring, not special.

  • 17:20 I told Sean before the show that there are at least three people in my mind right now. I can picture their names and faces. I’m friends with them, and they have a very interesting story, outlook, and a lot of really good stuff to say, and they’re not producing regular content. They could be growing an audience and gathering a group of people around them. They kind of do it in real life, a little bit at a time, through one-on-one interactions, but they could amplify their audience online if they would just put out a weekly vlog, write a blog post every week, or open up just a little bit. They don’t. Maybe there are a few reasons, but I think that’s the first challenge to overcome—the feeling that you don’t have an interesting story.
  • 18:11 Sean: Rip a page out of any book and look at the page. It’s not an interesting story. There isn’t enough there. It’s like watching 30 seconds of a TV show. Who is this person? Why are they mad at the other person? I don’t understand. It builds over time. When you show up every day and you contribute to that story, whether that’s a vlog, blog, Snapchat, or a tweet, you’re contributing to the story. You’re adding pages, and eventually, you have a book, a novel. Those novels turn into volumes, different seasons of your life. You can have multiple layers of stories.
  • 18:53 For me, it started out with me wanting to be able to do the work I love to do. I intended to do this overlap, which is where the Overlap Technique came from. Am I where I want to be? I thought I wanted to be here, so I made changes in my life to do this. I thought I wanted to do web design, so I phased out of computer repair work. In my nights and weekends, I was drawing custom-made lettering. I liked that! I thought, “I would like to be able to do this full time.” Gradually, over three more years, I was able to transition to doing that full time.
  • 19:31 Then I was making six figures a year off of lettering because I was charging five figure rates with clients, which is crazy, but so many people wanted to know how to do what I did. I could keep doing what I was doing for myself, make six figures, and be fine. But when there are thousands of people who want to know how to do this, why not help them? I thought, “Okay, this is a problem on my lap. Let me help these people and be done with that.” When I did that, I found out that what I really enjoyed was teaching.
  • 20:10 I enjoyed doing what I loved and making a living from it. It was a blast. Who wouldn’t enjoy being able to do the kind of work they loved and make a living from it? When I shared with other people and I saw the results, they were struggling to know how to do this and I helped them come out of that. I helped them enjoy their work and wake up every day with passion, and they were happy. I got addicted to that. Seeing that transformation was something I loved so much that I enjoyed the teaching even more than the doing.
  • 20:48 Aaron: There are few things I have found that I enjoy more than hearing from somebody saying, “You completely changed my life with this thing you said or this book you recommended. It made everything better.” If you’ve never experienced that, you can’t understand how powerful it is to have a positive impact on somebody else and for them to say it, to let you know that they’re grateful for it. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. When you make someone else happy, they tell you that, and it makes you happy, you want to do it all the time and you don’t want to do anything else.

Dream Bigger

  • 21:31 Sean: There’s an evolving story going on here. People know my story up to this point with the whole lettering thing, and I’ve also told the story of setting bigger goals. The most popular episode of the seanwes podcast, episode 68, is called You Have One Life—Set Bigger Goals. In 2009, I sent an email to myself that said, “I want to make $3,000 doing computer work that I love and playing or making music.” I was barely making over $1,000 a month at the time. I wanted to triple my income. I put the exact date and the time, and I wrote, “I have my new job. I’ve got it.”
  • 22:25 I staked a claim there. I said, “I want this.” For me, that was dreaming big. As a kid, I always like Lamborghinis. That was my dream car as a kid, but when I grew a little bit older, I brought my goals down into the constraints of my reality. I let it be realistic, and I said, “I’ll get a Mustang.” I worked really hard for some years over the summers, got a job, saved up money, and bought my first car—a red Mustang—in cash. I wrote out everything I wanted: “I want a 2001 red Mustang, manual transmission, less than 85,000 miles…” I wrote down everything.
  • 23:09 As things came, I saw these cars. Here’s one that fits every criteria, except it’s white. Here’s one that fits every criteria, except it’s older. Here’s one that fits every criteria, except that it’s not a manual transmission, it’s automatic. I said no, no, no. I let them all pass until I found the perfect one. It was up in Austin, and I knew that this was the one. I drove up there, test drove it, and had a mechanic check it out. The mechanic said that the clutch was about to go. 80,000 miles is about when the clutch goes.
  • 23:45 He said, “That’s pretty normal. Everything else looks good. The hoses are tight. Everything is working great.” I told the owner, “I had the mechanic check it out, and he said that everything looks good. The only thing is that the clutch needs to be replaced.” He didn’t even realize. It was his kid’s car who went off to college. I was telling him, and he said, “I had no idea, I’m so sorry! What’s the cost of a new clutch? I’ll bring the price down.” I wasn’t expecting that. I had my criteria for the price, and it was 40% less than that once he took the price down.
  • 24:21 This was so awesome. My friends said, “Hey, just get whatever car,” but I said, “No. I want this car.” This experience showed me that when I set my sights on something, I can accomplish a goal. I can accomplish what I set out to accomplish. Then I started thinking, “If I can accomplish what I set out to accomplish, why am I setting my sights so small? Why am I settling? Why am I dreaming small? Why don’t I dream big?” I revisited my childhood goal, my dream car, which was a Lamborghini. I said, “I want to buy a Lamborghini in cash.” I don’t do the whole debt thing.
  • 25:03 I said, “That’s not big enough. I want to dream super big. I’m going to buy it in cash only when it represents 10% of my money.” This was a goal that I had, and I wasn’t planning on telling anyone.

People tend to ridicule you when you tell them your big goals and they call you unrealistic.

  • 25:26 Look where realistic gets you. Realistic gets you mediocrity and averageness. I don’t want that. I decided, “You know what? Maybe people ridicule me. Maybe people who don’t know me, my message, my values, and my passion for people will make a snap judgement and call my materialistic because I have a dream of this exotic car. That’s fine. I’m going to endure that for the purpose of sharing this journey and inspiring other people.” That story is an ongoing story for me. It’s been going on for years, and it will continue to go on for more years. People tune in. Even if they think I’m crazy, it’s an interesting crazy.
  • 26:19 Aaron: It’s more interesting than someone who just goes, “Yeah, you know, just going to my day job. Then I’ll go home, have a beer, and watch some Netflix. Then I’ll go to sleep, wake up, and maybe I’ll go out this weekend and go see a movie.”

You Need to Be Doing SOMETHING

  • 26:49 Sean: Why are they watching Netflix? Why are they going to the movie? What kind of things are they going to watch? They’re going to watch the things with the interesting stories, with the crazy person that everyone ridicules.

Why not be the person creating the interesting story that other people want to watch?

  • 27:09 Aaron: If you want to be, then you should be. That’s what I think.
  • 27:15 Sean: We need to convince people to want to be. If you’re listening to this podcast, you need to want to be.
  • 27:20 Aaron: I think the people listening to this podcast do want to be. Everybody else is watching Netflix.
  • 27:29 Sean: Aaron said in his notes here, “You need to be doing something.” What did you mean by that?
  • 27:35 Aaron: You have to be doing something that isn’t just the normal, everyday, day-to-day thing. Watching Netflix is not doing something. Browsing Facebook or Instagram is not doing something. Complaining about things online is not doing something. There’s something to be said about writing about injustices, but that’s a whole other show. You have to try new things!
  • 27:58 Sean: Eric in the chat says, “I don’t have a Netflix account.” Take the point though. We’re not saying that if you don’t have Netflix, you’re good. What are you doing instead of creating your interesting story? Maybe he’s doing great. That’s awesome. For the listener, I want you to audit yourself. Maybe it’s not Netflix. Maybe it’s games. Maybe it’s reading books. There’s nothing wrong with this. Reading books is great, but maybe that’s your version of an escape.

There are things in your life you’re saying yes to that are keeping you from setting a big goal, from creating and pursuing an interesting story.

  • 28:39 If you don’t have a big goal, a big challenge to overcome, it’s not an interesting story. The boy wants an ice cream cone, so he goes to the store and he gets it and he eats it. The end. I already forgot the story. Was it a girl? Was it a piece of candy? I don’t know. Something has to happen. He wants the ice cream, but he doesn’t have the money. Okay, he’s got to mow some lawns. The dog bites his leg, he’s pulling away, and he’s running… There’s got to be some interesting challenge you overcome. There has to be something bigger. Instead of an ice cream cone, maybe he needs to build an ice cream shop. He lives in Alaska. How can he make this happen?
  • 29:36 Aaron: In the movie Hot Rod, the character’s stepdad, whom he always fights and fails to succeed in defeating, can no longer fight him because of a heart condition. The funny thing about this movie is that this guy isn’t interested in saving his stepdad—he just wants him to be healthy enough to fight so he can prove that he’s the bigger man. It’s a funny movie. He’s got to raise $50,000, and he’s a nobody from a small town. The whole movie is a story of him trying more ridiculous and dangerous stunts. He goes through the process of telling his story through video, getting people interested. There’s a lot more to that movie than I initially thought.

Failures & Obstacles

  • 30:38 Sean: Aaron, can you tell me the five elements of a compelling story? Where did this come from, and what are the five elements?
  • 30:48 Aaron: I was reading a book, and I think it was about outlining. It was by Libbie Hawker. There’s a character—let’s pretend you’re the character. The character wants something. What do you want? You have to have something that you want. Something is going to prevent you from getting what you want, so you have to struggle against that and fight that thing, whatever it is. It could be circumstances, a person, events, or whatever. You’re going to struggle, and you’re either going to succeed or fail. That’s a compelling story.
  • 31:32 If you take away any of those pieces from the equation, there’s no story. Without the character, there’s no story. If you don’t want something, you don’t have a story. If something doesn’t prevent you from getting what you want, if you come from a wealthy family and you want $50,000 and your parents say, “Here’s $200,000,” there’s no story. If there’s no struggle, it’s not a compelling story. At some point, you succeed or fail, but that’s not even necessarily the end of your story. As Sean likes to say, he doesn’t consider failure an option. What do you say about failure, Sean?
  • 32:21 Sean: I just don’t think of things in terms of failure. Every success is only one after a bunch of failures.

The road to success is ridden with failures.

  • 32:34 Failures are mere hurdles, things you have to get past. You get to decide if a failure is a hurdle or a road block. Is it something you climb over, or is it an impassable road block? That’s all a failure is. To me, failures are just bumps in the road. I’m not going to say, “The road’s not smooth. I’m done!” You get to decide if something is a failure or not. It’s a failure if that thing causes you to quit. Anyone who is successful, if you look back at their story, experienced failure along the way.
  • 33:13 They don’t tend to call it failure. They just say, “This is a thing that didn’t work. This is a thing that produced undesired results. How can I calibrate and adjust to keep moving forward?” If someone blindfolded you and you had to go through a maze, you’re feeling around and you can’t see anything. You feel on the left and the right, you come to the end, and it’s a dead end. If you sit down, curl up in a ball, and start crying, that’s a failure. If you turn around and try another route, eventually, you make it through the maze and come out on the other side, and then it’s a success.
  • 33:57 We say, “He made it through the maze! He’s an overcomer. He has achieved the gold medal.” You don’t look at all the times he went the wrong way in the maze and turned around, and he never called that a failure. He just said, “That didn’t work.”
  • 34:18 Aaron: There are definitely going to be times where you sit down, curl up, and cry for a while. Life happens sometimes. Sean experienced something similar today when he was trying to shoot video for the Value-Based Pricing course. The weather was like, “Screw you, Sean! I’m going to rain, and I’m going to rain so loud that you can’t record anything.” We all have circumstances where things don’t go the way we want, we lose a bunch of money, a relationship ends, we get fired, or there is some kind of “failure.” You sit down and you feel defeated, and you think, “There’s nothing I can do right now.” At some point, you have the choice to get up and move forward.

What Makes Your Story Interesting

  • 35:15 Sean: That’s the only reason your story is interesting! If you didn’t have those experiences, those challenges and “failures,” your story would not be interesting. This is a challenge. In your life and your business, as you go forward, in everything you do, you’re going to experience things that don’t turn out the way you want. You’re going to try things, and it’s going to produce undesired results. You have a choice.

When life doesn’t go the way you hope, you can quit or keep going.

  • 35:49 You can choose to see that as something that didn’t work, as data. I’m going to take the data, see it as something that didn’t work, and try something else. In the overall big picture, I would encourage you to see it as the thing that is creating your interesting story. If you didn’t experience that, your story wouldn’t be interesting. The person in the TV show in prison trying to escape, if he just puts a ladder up to the wall, the guards turn the other way, and he climbs over and gets out, isn’t interesting. He’s got to try all of these different ways, get so close, and have them not work. That’s what keeps people tuning in. That’s what they can relate to.
  • 36:29 They say, “Yeah, I struggled, too. I tried a bunch too, and it didn’t work. I thought being a freelancer was something that comes naturally to people. I see all the success stories, the cream of the crop, the best people on these popular blogs, and it worked out great for them. It didn’t work out great for me.” Guess what? The stories this person is going to be interested in are the real stories that you share. You could be the person who inspires them. You could say, “Look, I did thes same thing. I tried a bunch, and I got these terrible clients. I was overworking and underpaid, and eventually, I had to stop doing my own thing and I had to go back to delivering pizzas and move back in with my parents.” None of that’s fun, but that’s what creates the relatable aspects of your story for people.
  • 37:24 Aaron: You have to be willing and brave enough to talk about the things you may be embarrassed about, like the time you screwed up a client job and got fired or you lost a bunch of money or whatever it is. We don’t like to brag about those mistakes, but the people with compelling stories are the ones who own up to their mistakes. It’s interesting for people. They don’t hear those things and think, “What a loser. I’m not listening to that guy again.” No, they relate to you, because everyone has made mistakes. Everyone feels kind of dumb sometimes.

Show Up Regularly & Check In

  • 38:09 Sean: Aaron, when you say to show up regularly and check in, what does that “checking in” look like?
  • 38:20 Aaron: Cory Miller was having a conversation in the chat, and they were talking about how we say that it needs to be about the other person. When you’re trying to build an audience, you need to be all about them and provide value to them, and that is true. It’s not always about you. Find other people to bring into your story. Every hero needs a sidekick, or maybe you have teams, like the Avengers. Sean’s been doing this almost since the beginning. Sean was going to do the podcast solo, but I said that it would be more interesting if it was the two of us. The two of us has turned into, what, the seven of us now on the seanwes team?
  • 39:09 You tell other peoples’ stories as part of your own. You come into contact with people. Sean has talked about Shawn Blanc before, and he’s talked about Nathan Barry. We’ve talked about so many different people, and you want to make sure you’re not always talking about yourself. Be working through your story, be refining it and working on a way to make it interesting for other people. That takes time sometimes.
  • 39:40 Sean: Telling your story in a way that makes it interesting is going to require using different mediums. It’s like painting a picture. You need different colors. You might use different tools. When it comes to telling your story, there are so many ways to tell it at your disposal. You can tell a story through writing. You can tell a story on a podcast with your voice. You can tell it on video. You can use different social media platforms. You can tell it in person. You can share pieces of it on Snapchat.

Use different tools to engage people with your story in different ways, because different people will resonate differently.

  • 40:23 Some people like reading books and novels. Other people like watching Netflix. Other people like browsing through people’s social media profiles.
  • 40:39 Aaron: Sean and I have talked about commitment to showing up before (Related: e049 Show Up Every Day for Two Years). Sean says to show up every day for two years, and this is true for a lot of things, like blogging or making videos. Showing up weekly may be a better standard for growing an audience. If you want to do something you love, definitely show up every day. Put in 30 minutes or an hour every day, and that will get you where you want to go in a couple of years.
  • 41:01 Sean: When I say that you should show up every day, that doesn’t necessarily relate to your output schedule. If you want people to care, whatever medium you’re committing to, commit to it weekly. If you want people to notice, you’ve got to do it weekly. People live their lives in weekly cycles. They have routines that repeat every single week. You have to get inside that weekly cycle with your output, but that doesn’t necessarily mean show up once a week.
  • 41:30 Just because you’re doing a video once a week doesn’t mean you can’t be showing up every day and sharing a blog post, writing a newsletter, working on your book, working on your course, or creating art. I still would encourage you, in some form or another, to show up every day.
  • 41:53 Aaron: I try to show up for three different things every day. In the last episode I was on, I talked about the journal I have and inside the journal, it says, “Three long term goals,” (Related: e257 Planning Your Day for Maximum Efficiency in Under 5 Minutes and Still Accounting for Unplanned Events). My long term goals currently are to finish an Ironman race, get to 170 pounds, and launch my Successful Podcasting course.
  • 42:21 I’m going to show up to make progress for all three of those things every day, so what does that look like? For the Ironman, it’s some kind of endurance training. I have a training plan that includes 45 minutes of biking. What does showing up for 170 pounds look like? Showing up for that is eating healthy and buying healthy food. Showing up for the course looks like sitting down and making some kind of progress.
  • 43:36 Sean: By the way, for those of you wanting to start a podcast, go to You’re working on this course and doing something physical every day, do you think there’s something special about the three things, or is that just for you personally?
  • 43:52 Aaron: That’s how many were in the journal.

You can’t make meaningful progress on 10 things every day.

What Will Have the Biggest Effect on Your Goals?

    44:09 Sean: I was talking to Laci about this. She has a lot of ambitions. We’re trying to get on a more consistent early-wake schedule, being more diligent about exercise, and she wants to start doing food photography. She wants to get new gear for that and since we just moved into a new place, she wants to redecorate, and all of this feels like this big wad of stuff. It’s like, “If I want to work out or run, I’ve got to wake up early and if I’m going to have enough time to do food photography…” and everything relates to each other.
  • 44:49 You see how it relates and I was telling her that she was seeing this big wad of things because you know how it all interconnects and when you think about any one thing, it feels overwhelming, so you tend to push all of it off. I think that is a common problem for people who have all of these ideas. If you’re like us, you have so many ideas. It’s a really sobering thought that all of the ideas I have will not be possible to see through to fruition in my lifetime.
  • 45:24 I will die with ideas that won’t become a reality. How much of a shame would it be if, let’s say, I pushed all 10 of my ideas off because they all felt overwhelming together and I never accomplished any of them, vs. focusing on one at a time and accomplishing three or five? I told Laci, “I need you to commit right now to saying no to nine out of 10 of the things you want to accomplish, whether it’s decorating the house, waking up early, or working out. Start with the domino. Which one is going to have the best effect on all of your other goals?” For us it was waking up early, making sure we get on a good schedule, and making sure we go to bed early the night before.
  • 46:23 There’s always more work to do and you just have to be vigilant. You have to say, “It’s nine PM—it’s wind down time.” If you’re going to wake up at four, five, or six AM and treat this seriously, you’ve got to wind down at nine PM—that’s just how it works. This was the domino for us. We decided to get on an early-wake schedule so we feel like we can attack the day. If it’s five or six in the morning, I can go work out and still have time to write, work on a course, and do a show.
  • 46:55 Aaron: This is where the planning as been huge for me. Waking up early is fantastic, but planning what you’re going to work on in one to two hour blocks is just the right amount of time to make some kind of meaningful progress on something. Two hours in the morning on a course, an hour and a half of exercise—those two hour blocks are how you make progress. Waking up early makes you feel like you’ve got a lot more time in a day.
  • 47:35 Sean: Even if it’s the same amount of hours in a day—if you’re asleep and awake for the same amount of hours—I just get more done. There’s articles out there that say, “You always hear about waking up early, but guess what? It doesn’t matter! The science shows everyone is successful whether they wake up early or not and you can be whatever you want to be. Go with your natural tendency.”
  • 47:57 Those articles will make you feel good if you don’t want to wake up early because you don’t feel like it and you like staying up late. Those articles will make you feel good because they affirm what you already believe about yourself. I decided not to go by what other people say and I logged my output. I tested waking up early and journaling my day. What did I accomplish? How many words did I write? What was I able to do? As much as I hated it because I love staying up late, when I compared, I was just more productive. I was twice as productive waking up early. I want to be successful more than I want to be right.
  • 48:42 Aaron: I used to be a night owl too. This year I’ve been tracking my time and I can definitely see that I not only get more done when I wake up super early, but in some weird way, I feel like I get more done, which is a good feeling.
  • 49:03 Sean: I feel less guilt stopping work for the day when I wake up early.
  • 49:09 Aaron: When I wake up early, I feel less stressed. I went to a show last night that didn’t get over until 12:30, so I was in bed by 1:00. I didn’t get up until 7:30 or 8:00 and I immediately felt like I had so much stress and like I had so much stuff to do that day. It was the worst. When I wake up at 3:00, it’s the exact opposite. It’s like I’m going to annihilate every single thing I have to do that day. To get us back on track, I had mentioned showing up regularly and checking in.

The 3 Types of Content to Produce

  • 50:16 Sean: I was going to ask you about what you read from Scotty, one of our Community members, about the three types of content to produce.
  • 50:27 Aaron: Scotty Russell of the Perspective Collective wrote a great newsletter/blog post last week. He said:

If you want to reach an audience, you can produce educational, inspirational, or entertaining content.

The best content is made up of all three.

  • 51:10 Sean: I try to do that with the podcast. I hear from people that they feel like they learn a lot, they’re inclined to think bigger because of the shows, but then they also say they love the sense of humor, which always makes me smile.
  • 51:27 Aaron: Let’s do a super quick analysis of last week’s episode (Related: e269 How to Have Six Months of Income Saved in the Bank). That was a fantastic episode. I try to use clips for the intros that are educational, inspirational, and entertaining, but it’s hard sometimes. I listen through the whole episode, so I keep my ears open for the gold nuggets. The intro to 269 had all three. Sean was talking about how he treats debt like there’s a spider crawling inside his shirt and he said, “I don’t just leave it there to get to it later, I want to annihilate it.”
  • 52:38 That’s inspirational and educational! You’re teaching people that debt is not something to be ok with; you should want to get rid of it. That will inspire people—I know it inspired me—and then right at the end of the intro clip, Ben goes, “Hey Sean, could you demonstrate what they would look like?” and Sean said, “Yeah! No, I’m not going to do that,” with Cory laughing in the background. It was the perfect intro because it hit all three of those points.
  • 53:22 Inspirational, educational, and entertaining—think about that when you’re creating content. I published my very first vlog this morning, which is something I’ve never done before. I’m not a video content producer. I was wondering if I can be educational. The premise of the blog is that I want to do one audio/podcasting tip every week, which hits the educational point. For inspirational, I tend to encourage people and I want everybody to achieve their dreams, that’s just the type of person I am. For entertaining, I have a weird sense of humor and I understand that. I try to hit all three of those things and I think I did a decent job with the first episode, but it was difficult.
  • 54:48 If you want to build an audience, you have to get comfortable with the tools available to you. I think a lot of us have certain mediums we get started in and then get comfortable with and we just want to stay there. For me, it was podcasting or writing. I’m definitely very comfortable with podcasting and I’m very comfortable with writing. I would put our blogposts and podcasts, but I wouldn’t do video.

Comfortable people don’t create interesting stories.

  • 55:12 Sean: Aaron hit the nail on the head—a lot of us are sinking into comfort. You finally started doing a newsletter and you’ve been doing that once a week for a year. That’s great, but why haven’t you started a podcast? Why haven’t you started making videos? Why are you so scared of Snapchat? Some people have signed up for Snapchat to follow someone, but they don’t post to it. You’re afraid of turning the camera around to yourself. Maybe you’re writing blog posts but you came up with an excuse when you got invited to speak in front of 50 people because you’re scared. I want people to embrace discomfort—that is how you’re going to grow.
  • 56:25 Podcasting was awkward for all of us, but it helps round you out. It helps every other facet of what you do. It helps you be a better communicator. There’s no way it can’t be beneficial to be better on video, to be a better communicator, to be a better writer, to be a better speaker, and then blend all of those together. You can reach people more effectively. People listen to you when you learn to speak very well. We’ve all stumbled over our words. The best speakers in the world didn’t start out speaking perfectly! It’s just been a ton of iteration, to the point where they’re able to speak in a fluid, easy to understand way that has people’s attention.
  • 57:20 You can make more money this way and you can sell better this way, but it’s not just about money. You have a cause you believe in and you have a message you want to get out to the world—people pay attention when you are interesting. People pay attention when you are a good storyteller. People pay attention when you’re able to speak your message in way that is fluent. People relate to you more when you put your vulnerable, unshaven face with a zit on your nose that won’t go away out there. They relate to that vulnerability.
  • 58:02 Aaron: A lot of you guys listening are too comfortable where you’re sitting right now and I’m thinking about a lot of people who are too comfortable with Twitter or Facebook. Honestly, for me right now, I’ve gotten too comfortable with podcast editing. I’m good at it, but what’s next? How long can I talk about podcast editing before people say, “You’ve been taking about that for five years!”

People stop paying attention to a story when it never changes or evolves.

  • 58:57 Sean: You’ve gotten complacent, comfortable, and you’re not facing challenges. You’re not setting goals big enough for yourself and people are going to stop paying attention to your story.
  • 59:20 Aaron: Think about that and think about where you are in your life right now. Maybe it’s time to try something ne. Maybe it’s time to stop being so awesome at Twitter where you have your thousands of followers and to try Snapchat or shooting some videos.
  • 59:35 Sean: Go be a beginner again. Do you know that’s why I brought the Kalimba. When I was six, I would play songs I had heard by ear on the piano, so my parents got me some lessons. I played for nine years before picking up guitar. I took a bunch of theory intensive piano lessons, so I was able to transpose that to teaching myself guitar. I played piano for over 20 years and guitar for 12, and I got complacent.
  • 1:00:34 I’m really good at piano, but that was it. That’s when I said I wanted to be a beginner again. I want to struggle. I want a new challenge. I got a Kalimba and practiced on the air to show people what it looks like to start from scratch and get good again. I want more of our listeners to do that—try new things! Embrace new things. Put out some videos. Take your story to the next level.
  • 1:01:44 Aaron: I’ve got a list of things here and if you’re not comfortable in all these things, then try one of them:
    • Podcasting
    • Blogging
    • Making videos
    • Vlogging
    • Screencasts
    • Snapchat
    • Instagram
    • Speaking
  • 1:02:22 Sean: If you remember anything from this episode: become a beginner again and make sure you’re facing challenges. If it’s too easy, then your story isn’t interesting enough and people won’t keep tuning in. If your story stops evolving, you’re going to lose people. Become uncomfortable again, try something new, and set your sights bigger. Make sure there’s an aspect of struggle in it—it’s good!