How to Face the Grind of Building a Business

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Looking for practical advice and training from the world’s most successful speakers? The Speaker Lab Podcast features business tactics, tips, and strategies from the world’s most successful speakers. We post transcripts of every episode as resources to help you build your speaking business.

Grant: Greetings friends. Welcome back to The Speaker Lab Podcast. We are joined once again by one of the fan favorites. One of my favorites, Mr. Erick Rheam is in the house, and we’ve got some good stuff to share with you today.

So, we’re going to be talking about building a speaking business. And let’s be honest, building a speaking business is no joke. It is a lot of work. It’s very difficult. It’s hard. I think here at The Speaker Lab we don’t try to water down or just say, “Oh, just click your heels together and close your eyes tight. And then magically you two can be a speaker.” It’s work. And so, one of the things we say a lot is, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

And so we can walk through all the steps we’ve got literally hundreds of podcast episodes and trainings. It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. And part of what makes it difficult, and challenging is you’re trying to build a speaking business while also just balancing life. You know we’re both husbands, we’re fathers, we have interest in hobbies and obligations way outside of the speaking industry.

And so building a speaking business can be a grind. Have you found that especially early on in your own business, and even today you’ve built a lot of momentum, but do you find it continues to be a grind?

How to Navigate the Grind 

Erick: Oh, it’s a huge grind, but I love it. Whenever I do something that requires a lot of work, it’s not that big of a deal if it’s something I’m passionate about and I’m making a difference.

And so doing something that’s hard and requires a grind, but I don’t enjoy it is one thing — that’s called the nine to five job, right? But doing something that’s hard, but you enjoy doing it, then that’s another thing. Anything that’s worth anything is going to require a lot of work and transformation. There’s no shortcutting anything, but I think the big key is that if you want to be a successful speaker, you must be willing to grind it out. We second guess ourselves, right? When you sit down and you’re doing something that you’re not used to doing, even if you’ve been successful in your career now suddenly you want to be a speaker — it’s as new to you.

You start having this self-doubt. Like I’m not good enough. This is not the right time. Life is against me. When this happens, then I can do this – right? When, when my kids finally get their cars or they graduate or I get through whatever situation you’re in, then I can do it. We build these excuses around our failure instead of focusing on the right things. Well, there’s a way, Grant, that I believe we can fight that. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Grant: You kind of touched on it there, just the mindset of the journey. I remember early on in my own speaking career I had a friend say, “You have to fall in love with the process.” Because there’s a lot of days when building a speaking career that you may be tired, you may be discouraged, you may not feel like it. It’s kind of like going to the gym. Most people don’t like going to the gym, but you have to almost fall in love with the process in order to get the result that you’re trying to get.

I’ll give you a quick example – I remember early on as we’re working and doing our best but we’re also making it up. So I remember when I first started The Speaker Lab, I went to a conference and we were brand new. I happened to know a couple people who were at the conference and was able to attend a dinner one night. There were a couple of speakers there and just some people in the online business space that I knew of and looked up to — admired and respected. They just seemed like they had their act together. And I remember we’re all just having dinner, there’s five or six of us there, and I remember just my big mental takeaway was,  these people don’t know what they’re doing either.  Not in a negative way or mean way, but it was just like, oh wait, they’re also figuring it out. You know?

And just for a split second, you got to see how the magic trick was done. Or you got to peek behind the curtain and realize, again, like these are sharp,good people who are doing good work, they’re building a business with integrity and they’re just doing their best. They’re just figuring it out as they go.

They’re moms, they’re dads, they’re husbands, they’re wives, they’re just normal humans doing their best. And they have the same doubts and the same insecurities and the same fears and the same wonders as all of us — as you and I do even today. Some days at The Speaker Lab, we are crushing it. And some days I don’t know what we’re doing, you know, and everything in between. And that’s just part of it.

I’m curious, have you found that to be the case for you as well?  Of just going, “Oh yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing and some days are great and some days are awful.

Erick: Yeah. In fact, that’s why I love watching documentaries, especially of musicians, just trying to figure it out. You and I are both friends of Jerry Seinfeld — you know that DVD he had several years ago and he is up trying new material and he is fumbling through these jokes and someone in the audience says, “You don’t know the joke, do you?” I mean, this is Jerry Seinfeld. This is after his show, Seinfeld. And he’s still trying to figure out these jokes. And that’s actually very, very comforting when you see something like that. I remember when I met Michael Hyatt for the first time. I’d been following him for several years. And I went to his first conference. This is back in 2014 when I was trying to figure out how to be a speaker. And I remember him getting up there and he was very vulnerable and talking about still trying to figure some things out. And I thought, wow, he really doesn’t know what he’s doing – he doesn’t really know what the next five years looks like.

And he was very vulnerable, but actually made me respect him more because I realized if he’s willing to do that, I can do that same thing. He’s just, you know, five or six years ahead of me. So yeah, I’ve had that same experience.

Grant: So what do you think then, if that’s the case, if all these insecure, fearful humans are just doing our best, making it up as we go — what are the things that make a difference and what are the things that really make an impact? What are the things that differentiate speakers that make it and speakers that don’t?

Erick: Ok well I learned this concept and I just applied it ever since then. When I went to the academy, I almost didn’t make it there, for many different reasons. One of them was, I didn’t know how to study. I didn’t know what I was doing, man. I just, I was getting crushed by their system. And I had this upper-class cadet pull me aside one day because it was just utter chaos there and he said, “Listen, you’re going to sit down and you’re going to work on this project and you’re going to do it for a certain amount of time.”

And I’d never done that before. I was always scatterbrained. I would go to one thing, go to another thing, and that’s why I wasn’t being successful. But he taught me a methodology that has really served me well. And really served me well when I was starting to work on my speaking business while having a full-time job.

I was working 40 hours a week and trying to build a speaking business and I did it. I did it off one thing and I call it the power hour and it’s made all the difference. And that’s what I want to kind of unpack.

The Power Hour 

Grant: Well, so first of all, just give us a quick high-level overview or just a definition of what you mean by power hour.

Erick: It’s a time in the day. That I identify as what I’m going to spend my high leverage tasks on, and I’m going to protect that time. So I decided that I was going to carve out an hour each day, come rain or shine, no matter what happened. And I was going to work on the most important things that I can think of. That was the key. And so that’s what started it — I just decided. I committed that I was going to spend this time every single day, Monday through Sunday. And by making that commitment, that’s really what started me down the path of really taking it to the next level.

Grant: You know, two things I like about that is — one that you are being intentional about focusing and two — being intentional about focusing on the right things. And so it can be, as entrepreneurs, at all different levels and speakers of all different levels.

There’s always more to do. There are always more opportunities. There are more things on the buffet than you’ve got room on the plate for. There are always things that you want to pursue. There’s always going to be those shiny objects. And so, knowing how to focus and being able to focus on the right things again. Even, you know I talk about for us here at The Speaker Lab.

There’s a lot of opportunities for things that we could do. There’s a lot of good opportunities for things that we turned down and things that would be easy to justify or rationalize and say, “Oh, we could totally do that thing.” And maybe it’s just a complete distraction though — it’s complete sideways energy. So having that focus and focusing on the right things is critically important.

So, let’s flush this out a little bit more. You gave us an overview of what the power hour is, but what does that look like on a practical day to day basis? And how can speakers incorporate that into their own business?

Erick: Okay, well, here’s the concept. First of all, you have to commit to it. You have got to make a commitment that I’m going to do this. And I run this, I run into this a lot with our students where we’ll have students that come out of  the gate and they come out hot, man. They’re like, I’m going to change the world. I’m the next Tony Robbins and this and that.

And I would say, great. Let’s make sure your work habit matches that. And some can’t believe I’m questioning their work habits. It’s one thing to have the desire. It’s another thing to actually do it. And the key is you have to commit to be able to do something that you can do on the days that you don’t feel your best.

That’s the key. A lot of times what we’ll do is we’ll build this methodology in our head. I want to be able to do this. I can commit this much time, but we do it with the perfect set of conditions in our head. When our kids aren’t sick, when our dogs aren’t dying or when we’re not in a pandemic or when our boss gets fired and now, we’re the interim director or whatever. We don’t plan on all those things.

And then when those things happen and chaos happens, the first thing that goes is my speaking business. Well, you’ve got to commit to what you can do on your worst days and your best days.

And on your best days, you don’t have to go beyond it. Just stay consistent. I’d much rather you stay consistent with your one hour a day than say it’s a great day to do five hours. I would much rather you just keep doing your one hour plugging away. That’s number one.

Grant: Now, let me piggyback on that real quick. Or just ask you a question about it. I think anyone is going to say, “I’m committed to this.” And some of them are, and some of them aren’t and for whatever reason, oftentimes it is a higher percentage of people that aren’t than are. And so, do you think that that commitment is only really proven or shows itself when it gets tough or when it gets difficult that people stick with it? Because again, there’s everyone who joins anything that we do or comes across anything we do or reads their book or whatever. They’re like, I can do this. I’m going to do this. But there’s also a level of — are you disciplined enough to stick with this through the hard times? Or are you just kicking tires? And you’re just looking for the fancy outcome.

Again, if we go back to the health and fitness example of, What do you need to do? You need to pay attention and you need to exercise. And it sounds really good until you have to show up at the gym and lift heavy crap and say, “Man, I love eating ice cream. I love sugar. And I’ve got to give that stuff up. Like I’m not committed that much. So how do you determine if they’re committed to this?

Erick: Well, I think that part of it is, what are you willing to do? What are you willing to suffer for?

I think that’s the bottom line. And sometimes suffering comes in different forms. It could be maybe you don’t get to go to one of your daughter’s basketball games because you have to do something for your speaking business. Are you willing to do that? Maybe it’s that you don’t get to take the whole month off in December to celebrate Christmas — because that’s what I normally do.

Or maybe you take one less vacation because you’ve got to take that money and invest it in your business. These are all indicators of, are you willing to suffer for it? And so as soon as someone starts to feel the pain of anything, that’s when you have to make a decision, is my dream big enough — is my passion big enough to suffer through this?

So [continuing with Power Hour] the next thing is you want to plug it in your schedule, and you want to strive to do it at the same time every day. The thing I learned when I was in the military is that your body is extremely resilient, but your body’s also like a machine. It wants a pattern and wants a rhythm. And when you have a patterned rhythm, it’s easier to show up for that because your body will train your mind and all the energy that flows in there.

The next thing is you must protect it at all costs. I mean, you have got to put barriers around it, and it’s got to be your baby. And the reason why this is important by the way, is that there’s going to be times when you have a total dumpster fire of a day, nothing went right. Except that power hour and that’s all that matters.

If you can get that power hour done and you can do it consistently and protect it and don’t let that be the first thing that goes when life gets hard, then you will start to build a foundation.

The next thing is when you sit down and do it, you’ve got to cut out all the distractions. You can’t have your phone vibrating. You can’t have your smartwatch doing weird things. You can’t have email messages popping in. Not even your family – you’ve got to train them the best you possibly can. I know it’s hard in different phases. If you have a toddler, they might not get it, but you got to train your family as best you possibly can. My wife knows not to come to my office at a certain period because this is the power hour and she’s okay with it because we’re going on nice vacations right now that power hour turns into the power of vacation. So, she’s all over that.

The next thing you want to do is do this during your energy peak. We all have peaks in our energy. Some of us are morning people, there’s some weirdos out there that are afternoon people. I don’t understand those folks, but if you’re that person, God bless you.

I am a morning person. So between 4 AM and noon I’m living my best life. So my power hour tends to be between 5:30 AM or 6 AM – somewhere around there is my power hour. That’s when I’m going to be at my best. And once I get that power hour done I’m already successful. Now I’ve done the most important thing I need to get done. It’s a beautiful thing. Now in the beginning you’re going to sit down and do your power hour and it’s gonna be nothing. It’s going to be crickets. All I want you to do is to gain that muscle. I want you to work that muscle and get used to doing it so that you show up no matter what, even if you don’t know what to do at that point. Don’t worry about it. I’m telling you, if you start doing this for a week. You do it for two weeks. You do it for three weeks. You do it for 365 days. Your business can’t help but be successful because it starts to compound upon itself. And it’s a beautiful thing. I’d much rather have someone do that than give me five hours one day a week. I’d much rather just spread it out over time.

Grant: And I think what you’re laying out here is that it absolutely requires a significant sacrifice. This is something where it’s really kind of a gut check of determining how bad you actually want to do this thing? And there are absolutely speakers that we talk to and work with who you can tell they aren’t playing and they’re going to get this stuff done. They’re going to make the sacrifices.  Which means less time farting around on your phone, maybe less Netflix, maybe like you said, getting up earlier, staying up late or maybe working through lunch or something.

Now I want to touch on one thing that you mentioned as well, and that’s that you have to have some buy-in from your spouse on this. You know, assuming you’re married or you’ve got a life partner, it’s not just like, “Hey, I’m going into my shed. Don’t talk to me. Don’t interact with me. They have to have an understanding of what it is that you’re trying to do and see that this is the goal, this dream, this vision — and all those times I’ve been on the road or traveling or speaking on a gig or just building a business. I feel like my wife Sheila is just as much a part of that. Because we’re both making sacrifices too, you know, to advance our family and to accomplish these goals.

So how have you kind of navigated that? I know that you have an awesome and supportive wife, but how have you guys navigated the times where you’re making a lot of sacrifices and you may not be seeing results, maybe you’re both kind of questioning what you’re doing?

Erick: Well, I think that’s one of the reasons why you want to do the power hour as opposed to five hours. Because I think you can always get some grace for one hour, right? The other thing I did is that I did it during times when my wife would not want to be hanging out with me anyway. Your wife doesn’t want to hang out with you at 4:30 AM or 5:30 AM. So that was another thing. Also, something changes when you’re actually putting your hand to the plow, I think something changes in your spirit. Something changes in your heart, something changes in your soul, and your significant other is going to pick up on that and they’re going to like it.

So here’s what I would do in that hour. Seems like a long time, but 25 minutes doesn’t so what I do is I break my power hour in two sessions and I set a timer for 25 minutes, and then I focus on a task and then when the timer goes off I give myself a five minute break, get a glass of water or something like that. Then I’ll go back into another 25 minute session. And before you know it the hour’s up. Now here’s what I would recommend that you do, especially in the beginning. What I would do is use that first 25 minutes to learn something. and the second 25 minutes to apply what you learned, especially when you are first getting started.

How to Use the Power Hour 

Grant: So one question I have is how do you know that you’re doing the right thing? We see a lot of students and a lot of speakers who might tell you how they spent their power hour and you and I might recognize that it isn’t going to do anything for them – it’s not moving the needle.

So how do you make sure you’re doing the right things that are actually going to make a difference in your business?

Erick: Yeah, well there’s a lot of times you’re not going to do the right thing and I think that’s okay. So, I think we should take that burden off the audience right now. Don’t make it such a heavy thing that you sit down and think if you don’t use this hour to the fullest, you aren’t going to make it. That’s why you have to be consistent.

There are going to be days where you try stuff, you do things, and it’s just a dumpster fire. You may have weeks like that, but if you keep showing up, then you’re going to eventually start to get more clarity on what it is you need to focus on. And this is really something that I learned when trying to manage chaos.

You know, the army taught me this. I was once told while being trained to become an officer in the military that the business of a military officer is to manage chaos. And that’s kind of a weird thing if you think about it, but it does make sense, you know, when you think about battle and you think about being in harm’s way like that, it’s pretty chaotic.

And the only way sometimes you can get through that is to focus on the very next thing that you can. What’s the very next thing? Don’t worry about the whole journey. Don’t worry about not having a website or not knowing what your talk is going to be about.

Just say, okay, what is the next thing I can do right now? And do just that one. It could be something as simple as getting a domain name or registering for one — and if that’s all you do, find a way to do it. That’s fine. And then maybe sometimes you do something that makes no sense. You’ll learn from that, but if you keep showing up and have that consistency, it’ll build upon itself and you’ll get much better at showing up during that power hour. In fact, I expect for you to really be a dumpster fire, mess it up in the beginning.

If you’re not used to doing this, over time you’ll learn to do it. So, here’s some things I’ve done in the past. In the beginning for me before I really knew I was going to do speaking, I was figuring out my voice. So I did blogging. I did that every day, by the way, I spent my power hour and I wrote a 539 page novel and it was a total waste of time.

No one will ever read a 539 page novel. It’s on my computer. It’s there. It’s done. I spent maybe a couple months. You know what? I got nothing out of it. Other than maybe became a better writer as a result of it. But what did happen is once I got that done, I realized I like writing. So I actually discovered that I actually like writing. So that would come to serve me later. Then I started blogging and that became my thing until I started figuring out my voice. Then I started to turn that into prospecting. All I did was prospecting and now my business is going really well and I don’t have to spend the best part of my day doing that.

Then it turned into writing this book that I just finished, and I spent nine months, every day on that power hour doing that. Now I’m launching the book. Now I’m focusing on that every day. I’m about to start a podcast. These are important things in my business. Right now, the most important thing is to launch this book. So, every day when I get up, I spend that hour on what am I am going to do to move the needle to launch this book. So, if you’re overwhelmed, just ask yourself what the very next thing is that you can do. It doesn’t matter how simple it is.

Grant: Two things that you said there that I really like are that there will absolutely be times that you work on something and you find out later in hindsight that it was a waste of time. But you don’t know what you don’t know. And so you tried something, you spent a lot of time on working on a novel and you’re like, was it a complete waste of time? Probably not. You know, there’s absolutely things that you got out of it.

The second thing that you touched on there is that the best use of the power hour is going to evolve and change. There was a time where the best use of your power hour in mind was prospecting. And we spent all of our energy and effort doing that. And then there will be a different season of life where I’m spending all my energy and effort on writing a book or marketing a book — or learning about podcasting or working on a YouTube channel or working on whatever. And so we tell students all the time, you can do all the things, but you can’t do all the things at once. Something has to come first and something has to come last. And again, this never goes away. Erick you’ve seen behind the curtain here at The Speaker Lab. We have a lot of moving pieces. We have a lot of things going on and every day I’m asking myself, what’s the best possible thing? What’s the next right thing that I can be doing that I need to be focusing my energy and effort on?

And again I think it’s just a constant process of doing that. And it’s always going to be changing. It’s always going to be evolving, but just the habit from the very beginning of at least an hour every day of making that the most focused, most productive hour of the day helps make sure you’re getting the right things done and moving the ball along.

Erick: Yeah. I think one thing to remember is that success is just a thousand little steps that someone had the courage to take one step at a time. That’s key.

Grant: Let’s kind of recap, Erick, what we’ve covered here as it relates to just having that power hour on the importance of it.

Erick: Well, I think the one thing that all successful speakers have in common is their consistent work habit. That’s number one. The second thing we did is if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to commit to working on your speaking for one hour a day.

I think that’s the minimal viable product right there. I mean that’s the cost of a mission. So, one hour a day just commit to it. And when you do it, I recommend that you do it the same time each day during your peak energy time, protect it. It’s got to be like a baby that you’re nurturing. You’ve got to protect it. And then when you’re overwhelmed and you’re going to your power hour, and you’re just not sure what to do. Just ask this question. What’s the very next thing I can do right now to move the needle? I would write that down on a card and put that on your computer so when you’re just staring at the computer and you’re trying to figure it out, just look at that card.

Grant: Erick we appreciate the time as always. Appreciate you, man. Thanks.

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