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Uncommon Entrepreneurs As Creative Warriors with Jeffrey Shaw
I am grateful right this moment for the breath that I’ve got to take as we started the show and I thought to myself we’re off and running again. I took two weeks break to not take a break at all but go do some business development and was speaking publicly at three different conferences in Florida. I’m back, I’m happy to be home. I feel so blessed to be in my own home and to have my family around and to be able to take some deep breaths. Wherever you are right now, consuming what will be an incredible show. I promise you, you’re going to love the guest that I’ve got on. Take a couple of deep breaths for yourself right now. I’m going to join us in doing that. I always loved to start these shows whenever possible by not just grounding myself but setting the intention that everybody can use this as an opportunity to ground yourself, to get centered, to take a deep breath. To realize what a blessing it is to be alive at this moment, to be able to listen, to hear, to see.
These are blessings that I know I often take for granted. I don’t know if you’re like me, maybe you’re the same way, we take a lot of things for granted. It’s a perfect moment in the middle of the day, the end of a day, the beginning of the day, whenever it is you’re tuning into this, to take that moment to ground, to get centered, and to be in gratitude. I am truly in a state of appreciation and gratitude at this moment. I’ve got an incredible guest by the name of Jeffrey Shaw. I want to read a little bit about him from his bio and then bring him on and ask him some questions about that bio and we will get started. He is somebody that incidentally is a podcaster himself. He’s a thought leader and he’s got a new book out. You’re going to enjoy this gentleman and I was on his podcast. I had the blessing to be interviewed by him several months ago and I enjoyed that. Just before we hit the record button, I was thanking him for the fact that his team is so professional. I loved that show and how it’s been promoted ever since.
Having a keen eye isn’t just for what one sees but also for what one senses. Having been one of the most sought-after portrait photographers in the US for more than three decades, Jeffrey Shaw aka the Lingo Guy uses this honed intuition to teach entrepreneurs how to attract their ideal customers by speaking their secret language. Jeffrey is the host of the popular business podcast, Creative Warriors. He’s a nationally acclaimed keynote speaker, a business coach for the entrepreneurs and author of the bestselling book Lingo: Discover Your Ideal Customer’s Secret Language and Make Your Business Irresistible. With a social media audience of more than 100,000, Jeffrey’s commitment to promoting your show helps you reach a new audience. He’s passionate about helping others to grow. Jeffrey, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome to the Conscious Pivot Podcast.
I’m honored to be here. It will be fun and I love your show. I’m looking forward to it.
You have a wonderful bio. What’s not written in this bio, Jeffrey, that you’d love for people to know about you?
For a lot of us entrepreneurs, those of us are who I refer to as creative warriors out there doing big things. If I could I would be home every day in my pajamas, in my sweatpants and living a chill life. When one reads a bio, it all sounds like big stuff and you’re out there and I’m out there doing stuff. I do what I do because of the impact I want to create. I do what I do because I’m fighting for other people, what I refer to as the uncommon entrepreneurs, those of us creative warriors out there. If I could have the impact that I could just being in my sweatpants at home, I would be perfectly happy with that. It’s stepping up to the plate because you know you can’t. That is never written in anybody’s bio. What’s never written in anyone’s bio, especially for those of us that are pretty introverted by nature is that if I had my druthers, if I could have the impact that I want, I would be home and chilling in sweatpants but that’s not a reality. We step up, we step out, we do what we need to do to create the impact that we want to.
I’m going to say this too because I appreciate what you said. This idea of an unconventional or uncommon entrepreneur. I was thinking the word unconventional came to mind as well. I don’t even know what that means because there are very few rules, whatever the sacred cows were about business and how you conduct business has changed. I’m reading a book called The Future of Work and Thomas Malone is the author. It’s a Harvard Business Review book and imprint. It’s all about what the future’s going to look like for work and 1.5 billion people will be working virtually in the next ten years, which is amazing. This idea of working from home in sweatpants or sometimes I like to refer to as podcasters attire. They are clean from up here, but they could be sitting in their underwear for all you know. I think some of them do from time to time. I love to wear with my pants and my shirt.
There’s some research done not long ago by Intuit and published by CNN. By 2030, the US economy which I think applies probably to other first-world countries as well, 60% of the economy will be driven by “freelancers” which are basically independents, self-employed and entrepreneurs. That’s why I refer to it as an uncommon entrepreneur because I work with people who are coaching and whoever I wrote my book for. I wanted to speak specifically to needing to disrupt the traditional ways of marketing because when you are in an uncommon business, you need a different way to establish quick relationships with people. This is what excites me, this is what inspires me when I get up in the day. It’s like fighting on behalf of us uncommon entrepreneurs that are taking our skills, our talents, creative ideas, innovative ideas and building a business on it. It thoroughly excites me. It will probably be a term I can only use for a short period of time because uncommon is the new common.
Let’s close that loop then. If there’s a way to define what an uncommon entrepreneur is, give us some definitional guidelines for that.
For the most part, it’s people that are marketing their talent, a skill or they are their personal brand. Traditional rules don’t apply. You need to figure out a different way to market yourself and connect with people. It’s not a commodity. I always say I don’t think I’d be very good at marketing groceries for example. I’ve got a cool story, somebody reached out for coaching. I wound up not working with him. He wasn’t quite there ready to take on my services. I loved what he represented. This guy reaches out to me and he’s a credit card processor for Asian restaurants. Credit card processing in itself does not excite me, nor do I think I’m a great coach for a credit card processing company until I spoke to the man further. What he realized is that as a credit card processor for Asian restaurants, he has the opportunity to be in front of a type of business that typically struggles.
Restaurants have the number one failure rate then you niche that down into Asian restaurants. The cultural difference and he is of the culture. He felt like his business as a credit card processor was just a vehicle to get in a relationship with business owners who he felt he could help be more successful. That excites me because there is a deeper purpose and meaning to why he is a credit card processor. I would definitely consider him a creative warrior or an uncommon entrepreneur because he’s trying to do something different. He’s not just showing up as a credit card processor and processing money. He wants to use the platform to make a noticeable difference for the people that he’s working with.
I was on the phone with our oldest daughter who’s in Hawaii at the moment. We were talking about the new book that we’re incubating at the moment. It’s a sequel to Pivot and we were talking about the things that people have to do in an age of transformation, in an age of change. You and I were talking about this as well. Change is perpetual, change is constant, change is chronic. You can’t get away from it and rather than trying to hide from it or be defensive about it, meaning try to protect yourself or guard against the change, guard against the disruption. It’s a question of how it is that you utilize it and turn it into a creative opportunity for transformation. When I think about your podcast, Creative Warriors, I’m thinking that is the epitome of creative opportunity. How do you utilize a creative opportunity and step into it? Being a warrior means someone who’s willing to step forward in many ways. You could define it in lots of ways but please share what is a creative warrior? I want folks to be able to also check out your show. I’ve loved it and I want other people to check it out.
First of all, I’m a photographer, as you read my bio, by my original trade. I still do some photography but very little. Creativity was certainly going to be a part of the essence of my show, although we certainly don’t reach just people and traditional creative fields. For me, a warrior is a peaceful fighter. I’m a longtime practitioner of yoga and to me, the Warrior Two Pose is a pose that embodies resilience and strength. It’s such a wide-stanced pose that it’s hard to knock over and that’s the pose of it. That’s the purpose of that Asana. When you’re on a Warrior Two Pose, you are widespread with your arms and so you’re representing expansiveness and with wide legs stance, it’s hard to knock you over. To me, if you are going to be an uncommon entrepreneur or if you’re going to be a creative warrior it takes the spirit of a warrior. There is a fighting mentality inside you although albeit a peaceful warrior. That’s where the name comes from. I wanted to capture that feeling.
To me, any of us who are out there doing something uncommon, putting ourselves out there, being the person who’s willing to step out of their comfort zone and get out of those sweatpants and be on stages. I speak professionally. I speak on stages to thousands of people. I do it because of the impact I want to create. I enjoy it a lot. I love speaking and it always surprised me because it’s the energy that comes from the audience that’s fulfilling. It’s still a stretch. I always want it to be a stretch. When you stretch yourself out of your comfort zone it requires that spirit of the warrior. Let me show off, let me put on the good fight, a peaceful fight for the sake of others. What can I do with that? That’s what being a creative warrior means to me. It is those of us who are doing something uncommon, putting ourselves on the line and getting out there and doing it.
I want to follow some of those threads. My background is having gone out of the law. I’ve had eighteen years in the practice of law, pivoting into the realm of training, public speaking, and having spoken all over the world. Many years now, our company has been training speakers, training people to get on stage. We challenge not just their fear of public speaking but challenge them to step up and play a bigger game in terms of owning a message and being able to create and cascade a message, create a vision and share that vision with many people. There’s no question that there’s a willingness to stand up and dare to, sometimes we say, “Dare to suck.” It’s one of those things that keep people from doing more speaking in public, whether it’s in small groups at the office or it’s in larger groups in a more conventional way is this idea that they’ll be judged. To dare to suck, to dare to challenge that part of you that still wants to be liked and approved, most of us are running that program for the entirety of our lives in many ways, is a big piece of it.
I also want to add one distinction too because a lot of the training that we do these days is virtual. You and I are on a podcast right now but we’re also recording it on Zoom and therefore it’s a YouTube video, we use it for various things. Being a speaker, having or wanting to speak a message. Maybe people aren’t going to identify themselves as a speaker per se, but they have a message they want to speak. Some transformational message they want to share beyond even their immediate friends, family, company, that message doesn’t require them to get out of their sweats. I just want to challenge that one thing because I got back from several weeks of travel where I stood on stage and spoke. More than anything, my heart is opened in that arena more fully than any other place. At the same time when we do virtual training and a lot of our work is done virtually these days, live but virtual on a Zoom like this. You can be in your sweats and still have a massive impact on the world. I just want to get that clear.
I should qualify or change the metaphor because it is a metaphor for the willingness to just be out there. If you’re going to voice your opinion, if you’ve got a message you want to give, you are virtually or in person subjecting yourself also to the opinions of others, which in fact if you’re not igniting a controversial opinion, then you’re not stretching far enough. In a way, it’s almost a metaphor getting out there. It doesn’t have to be a literal form whether you’re in sweatpants or not. You can have a huge impact virtually. It’s the willingness to step up, step out, be clear and talking about bravery and fear. I have come to believe through my experience of helping so many small businesses and entrepreneurs with their brand message. It’s one thing to tackle the fear of public speaking.
Here’s a fear that I don’t think a lot of people talk about and I see every day, it is the fear of saying what they want to say. You know this as well, the journey that we encounter as we go through our careers is the ability to say what we want to say more succinctly and clearly than we ever have before. It’s the journey of clarity. It’s hard for people. I was at an event where it was a podcasting event. Some 150 people had two minutes time to make a pitch to try to be on the show, the podcast of what we refer to as icons. It was fascinating to me to watch people struggle to get their point across in two minutes. When you ask somebody, “What do you do for a living?” people rattle on and on. Especially the more uncommon of things that you do, the more uncommon your messages as passionately as you might feel about it. There’s this gap I’m able to communicate it. The hardest journey is one of clarity. What I often say is and it is part of the motivation behind writing my book is like, “You think it’s hard to craft a two-minute pitch, your message in the world needs to be a nine-second pitch.”
People need to understand what you’re trying to say so quickly. To me, one of the biggest fears I see in people is that they’re afraid to say it and I’m pulling it out of them, “Just say it.” I learned from a therapist friend of mine, therapists call it a doorknob therapy. I call it the blurt. It’s when somebody gets to the point of frustration. They drop a bomb and you’re like, “There, you finally said it.” They’ve been dancing around it. I go through this when I’m working on the branding work I do with people. They dance around what they want to say. They fluff it up, they make it all woo-woo and all this stuff is around. I’m like just say it. There’s a fear for people standing up for themselves and giving their clear message. It’s so important to get past that.
There are a lot of people who don’t want to be social media shamed. It’s not the term of art here but this shaming, there’s this tendency these days when people are stepping who want to speak their message that a lot of people judge them. There’s this very idea that for a message to be impactful sometimes it has to be where it is polarizing. As part of that polarization comes this judgment. People aren’t necessarily in conversation about it. They’re in judgment. Their language is one of, “You suck, you’re an idiot,” or whatever it is.
I’ll give you an example that I’m finding myself encountering more. In my book, Lingo, the goal of the book is to help businesses attract their ideal customers. I refer to the book about busting up the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. I’m not saying that it’s not an accurate formula but what I am saying in my book is that for small businesses and entrepreneurs, this no longer works because what the principle says is that 80% of your income comes from 20% of your customers. I’m not saying there isn’t truth to it but if you buy into that as a small business or entrepreneur now, what that’s saying is eight out of ten customers are a waste of your time. With as hard as it is to even get noticed now and attract customers, none of us can afford to waste eight out of ten of our customers. I’m out there talking about busting up this old long-held principle. This is what is ironic to me is I’m proving my point. The people are like “Jeffrey, I’m so glad somebody’s saying I agree.” They are my ideal customer.
I’m using my own strategy in action. Those who are like, “No, that’s just the way business is,” I don’t want to work with them. They’re not my ideal customer. It’s been interesting that I’m putting something out there that’s creating a certain amount of controversy and yet it’s doing exactly what I’m teaching. Which is when you make your clear point, when you stand up for what you believe in, the people that resonate with your values are going to step forward. Those that don’t will go away, and you don’t want to waste your time working with the people that you have to try to convince of something. Attract the people that buy into what the point is that you’re making. It has been interesting to get this push back and I knew it right in the book. I’m like, “This might not go over well,” because it’s a mathematical formula. There is truth to it but it’s the mentality that I’m concerned about.
I’m concerned about the number of businesses and entrepreneurs when they go into business. They buy into that principle. They take work for the sake of taking work and they don’t realize how difficult it is to get out of that loop. This loop of some money is better than no money. I’m like, “No, not really.” Maybe when you’re first starting out for a very short period of time, but you have to make a conscious decision. You have to make that pivot to say, “No, I’m not for everybody.” Any money is better than no money, that’s not necessarily true. If you only work with your ideal customers, you will get to your financial end goal quicker than being stuck in a loop of taking whatever work that comes along and wasting your time with eight out of ten customers.
Saying no is a powerful pivot.
Too many businesses or entrepreneurs, they start their business thinking, “I’ll do what I have to do for the first five years and then I’ll pivot.” I struggled for three years too and I pivoted entirely to becoming an entirely different type of photographer. I made the pivot but when I made that pivot, it was a dramatic shift because what I changed in my mind was that I was only going to work with the ideal customers. I developed the strategy to do that. The result of that pivot was I multiplied my business five times in one year. This was in the fourth year of business for me, I was 24 years old and multiplied my business five times in a single year because of the pivot I was willing to make inside.
This again represents a creative warrior. I’m looking at the world and thinking this 80/20 rule, the rules that other businesses are working by, just don’t work for me. They don’t work for me because I’m a high-end, low-volume photographer. I don’t have time to waste on anyone who’s not willing to spend the minimum investment that I need them to spend to make my business profitable. When I got that, that’s when I understood, I only want to work with my ideal customers and then I figured out how to develop a Lingo that would resonate with them.
I definitely want to speak about one of your significant pivots and maybe this is part of it. I don’t know but the lingo, the secret language that every market that you’ve detected is a part of the lexicon of every market. I’d love for you to define that and unpack that for folks here.
Pivots are perpetual. They’re ongoing. I love it and you’d say some people are collecting pivots. I’ve got tons of them, but this was definitely a big one. This is the irony of it. Lingo was released earlier on 2018. It’s a 30-year story. When I made the pivot, it was 30 years prior to writing this book. Yet what’s crazy about it is it’s more relevant now than ever. I love that because what goes around comes around.
What is its subtitle by the way?
It’s Lingo: Discover Your Ideal Customer’s Secret Language and Make Your Business Irresistible. The way it makes your business irresistible is because you are speaking the lingo of your ideal customer. When I’m on stage talking about the book, I start off my presentation with a video playing behind me of an outdoor market in India. It’s all these people and they’re all speaking Indian and I say, “Imagine that you’re in an outdoor market in a foreign country and everyone around you speaks a different language. Suddenly, someone yells out in your native language. You hear that lingo, that voice, clear, crispier and louder than everything else around you because they’re speaking your lingo.” Apply this to marketing, this is exactly what we need to do because our customers and prospective customers are surrounded by a noisy market. They’re bombarded with marketing messages. The only way you stand out is to speak a specific lingo to the audience that you are meant to serve.
When I started my photography business which I had fantasies of being a high-end portrait photography business, but I went back to my hometown. I grew up a very lower middle class in a small town a couple of hours north of New York City. I struggled to get that business going, eventually, I recognized it’s a failing business. This was not resonating to the area and I had an incredible pivotal conversation with a prospective customer who would never become a customer and that’s the point. She came in and I made my best pitch of how family portraits are valuable, you want to hand them down from generation to generation. She looked at me and she said, “I don’t have the luxury of worrying about my children’s memories. I don’t know how I’m paying my rent this month.” That’s when I realized I was speaking the wrong language. I’m speaking the language of long-term thinking, people that are struggling to get by financially. What’s mind-blowing to me is this was my own life, this was my hometown.
I suddenly realized that you can’t speak the lingo of long-term investing whether it’s in money or in photographs to people who don’t know what tomorrow looks like. I needed to find an audience that spoke my language. I wasn’t going to change who I was. I wasn’t going to change the values that I saw in photography. I needed to change who I was speaking to. What I realized is I needed to work with an audience who could afford the luxury, who had the extra financial means to buy luxury products and to invest in the future. I realized that I needed to reach an affluent market who bought luxury brands. It sounds great, but the problem was I was a lower-middle-class kid from upstate New York. I knew nothing about that lingo, but I took it upon myself to study not the high-end brands but to study the emotional triggers that affluent people felt in order to choose those brands. It became a study of psycho-demographics.
I went to those high-end brands, brick and mortar, I read the magazines because I wanted to understand the lingo. What were these brands and businesses? How were they communicating to their ideal customers such that their ideal customer would show up? What I realized is that I grew up with as a family we went to Kmart, we went to discount stores. Just like people go to Walmart now. Walmart has a very specific lingo to those that they serve. It’s very cost conscious. Target has a very specific lingo. It’s very value conscious. Target shoppers will spend money. They just want to feel like they’re getting more money than what they’re paying. They’re value-conscious. They’re not as cost-conscious, which is why Target and Walmart are always down the street from one another because in the same community they’re hitting a different psycho-demographic and they know it. Walmart is going to pull forward those who are speaking the language of cost consciousness and Target is going to pull forward the people in that community who are speaking the language of value and they all exist in the same community.
I don’t want to digress on this, just an observation that McDonald’s and Burger King were always side by side as well. You’d say that it’s almost cannibalizing to have two fast food restaurants that were in the same vicinity, but you’re right. The psycho-graphics are the people that would go to or the preferences would be different. They’re craving that fast food fix or the quick-serve restaurant fix but yet are on different teams.
Look at brands that have not done that for themselves. Sears and J.C. Penney for example. What does Sears stand for? No one knows, they lost their identity. They lost their lingo. They’re not speaking to anyone in specific. If you’re not speaking to anyone specifically then no one knows who you’re speaking to. Those are two brands that have struggled and are failing because they lost their voice. That’s why you’ll see on any street you’ll have multiple auto dealers lined up. That’s because the lingo of Mercedes is different than the lingo of Hyundai. They can benefit from each other, but you have to carve out your own voice. The learning lesson here is that there’s hardly any feel now that we don’t have more competition that we’ve ever had now.
I do believe everyone can carve out a market for themselves by speaking the lingo of their ideal customers. Here’s a concrete tip; what you need to bring forward is what is your unique perspective on what you do. I’m not the only business coach, there’s a million of them out there. It’s an uncertified field so it’s open to anyone saying, “I’m a coach.” Granted, there are differences. I’ve received over 2,000 hours of training. At the end of the day, that doesn’t matter squat to my customers. My clients have never asked me what’s my education, how many hours of training do I have. They come to me because my perspective on business is unique.
I want to go back to the pivot that you started to describe moving from high-end photography where your customer or your client was well-defined. These were people who could afford your services and would appreciate your services. These two things go hand in hand. The pivot out of that creative space, that creative entrepreneurial pursuit to the one that you’re currently involved in which is speaking, podcasting, coaching, high-end clients in business. Share a little bit about if you would that pivot.
That’s what I love about your show. I’ve done nothing but pivot.
Jeffrey, we pivot all the time, we just don’t realize. You’re making decisions consciously or unconsciously all the time.
I’d be actually curious about your view on this. There’s a difference between a pivot and the classic term jumping off the cliff or the big leap. It’s called the big leap. There’s a difference between a pivot and a leap. I also have my own personal views on the whole business of motivational speaking. We need motivation, but I also think we’ve evolved beyond shallow motivation. There has been a lot of motivation over the years about taking the big leap, big change. At best I tell my clients I’m into a safe leap. I’ve worked with a lot of people pivoting from corporate into entrepreneurship.
They’re giving up the comfort of a steady paycheck and supporting their family. I want to do it safely for them. You’re never going to create the income that you need to replace that job entirely while you’re still in the job. Let’s get 60% there, let’s get other markers, it’s not just the money. Do you have the systems in place? Do you have the vendors in place so that you can make a safe leap? There’s been too much emphasis on this big leap, jumping off the cliff. A pivot to me can happen quickly and it can evolve a little more. Most pivots for me have been an evolution, not a leap. For me, evolving out of photography and towards what I’m doing now has been the pivot like planetary action. It’s spinning and evolving. When I first started coaching, there was no grand ambition for it to become a business unto itself. It was just something I wanted to do to give back to people in the photography field initially.
Then people from other industries started coming and then I said, “I love this,” and I realized I can meet more people if I was on stage. I started doing speaking in order to put my views out there which only got me more clients. The next thing I knew my coaching practice was growing and it was getting close to equaling my photography business. Next thing you know, it did equal my photography business and then it started passing the photography business. I looked at those as levers. They are pivoting levers. I was pulling back the photography business and pushing up the lever of coaching practice and speaking all the things that come with it. To the point now that I do maybe a dozen shoots a year, compared to the 150 or so I used to do. It’s been a conscious pivot and not this, “Let me just jump off the cliff and make a big leap.”
It’s interesting because the language you’re using is the language of recalibration. It’s a language of finding the gradient between the extremes. If you’re familiar with the Tao Te Ching, it’s this finding a way of center and not necessarily allowing the pendulum to swing wildly in both directions. Which is typically what a pendulum does anyway. It will swing 30 degrees in one direction goes exactly the opposite direction 30 degrees until left alone, it will find the center point, the harmony point. It’s not necessarily a balance point but a center point. Our position that the whole big leap jump ship way of looking at pivots is crap. Because for the most part it scares the people and that means that most people that I’ve come in contact with don’t pursue their dreams. They don’t pursue the thing that they would be. Not so much that it’s going to be my new occupation or my new way of earning money but it’s something I’m passionate about. When I started my pivot out of practicing law, it took two and a half years and I didn’t start with the idea that I’m going to give up practicing law. I started with the idea of this is something I’m interested in.
This is something I want to put energy into. This is something I eventually love doing, love to the point where then it became a reality to look at. What is the opportunity here to do this more regularly? It became I was practicing law 80% of the time and doing this traveling around the world, speaking, and training, and coaching 20% of the time. Two and a half years later those two flip-flopped and it became 80% on this side and 20% on the other until we were having a conversation, my wife and I, about shutting down the law practice. It’s very much building the second bridge while still utilizing the first one, not tearing down that first bridge and stranding yourself.
I want to reemphasize, the big danger I see in this mentality of the big leap is that people wait too long to begin the pivot. If it’s in your mind that it’s a big leap, you hang on and you hang on. I typically think people begin the pivot process three years too late. Then there’s a greater sense of urgency where if they had started earlier, if they followed their dream a few years earlier, they could have made a slower, more conscious pivot as opposed to, “I want this to happen quickly because I now hate my job. My attention hasn’t been there so I’m no longer financially doing as well, and I’ve got to get the back up to earning a certain amount of money.” There’s a sense of urgency, where if they started earlier, if they started that conscious pivot early, they could have done it more consciously.
The death knell to me is when you take something as you’re using this term, I appreciate it, the conscious pivot, is an evolution of us, of our spirit, of our soul. To place money pressure on that is a killer. You’ve got to monetize this thing immediately without allowing it to unfold and evolve. Without that process of embracing the change that’s around and then utilizing that change in some way that’s meaningful for other people, meaningful for you, and then ultimately oftentimes it’s meaningful financially as well. As soon as you put the money, the requirement, the thing you’re so interested in has to also pay for your mortgage, your Starbucks and everything else. It can kill it before it gets started. I feel interested or intrigued about starting three years too late because there is this waiting and waiting kind of thing.
We created a digital product for what you describe as the demographic or psychographic of people. We created our pivoting incubator which is our digital version of the book. Fifteen Modules for people who are wanting to incubate something new and are looking at what is the recalibration between what I’m currently doing. Whether it’s a corporate career or it’s some other thing that they want to explore. The book is out. I want people to be able to get the book. We’ve been talking about business pivots. You’ve also had personal pivots. Personal pivots and business pivots can sometimes have these common themes in them and they can also be wildly different. There are lots of people who are a part of this community who are now in the process of some life pivot, whether it’s their health, it’s relationships, it’s something else, which is similar to the business concept but it’s also different. Do you want to share anything about that?
Undoubtedly the biggest personal pivot I made was coming out as a gay man at the age of 44. I had previously been married for nineteen years. I had been divorced for a number of years before I came out, so they didn’t go hand in hand. People find it hard to understand how you could not have known. I do embrace the theory that we are born with our sexual orientation but being born with your sexual orientation and not being clear to you are two different things. I always make it very clear I have never lied. I truly had not come out to myself and I could go on and on as to how messages of life were very confusing to me. I joked about it but there’s truth to it. I was always surrounded by women. I thought I was a chick magnet. I grew up as a teenager, I always had tons of women around me and girls. I had no problem getting dates because women loved my sensitivity and the way that I function. As women often like gay men.
When you’re a teenager not clear in your own sexuality and you’re surrounded by girls, I thought I was a home run. I was a chick magnet. There were a lot of confusing messages plus coming out never felt like a safe endeavor to me in the age in which I would have come out. It took many years, 44 years for it to unfold, for it to become clear to me. To me, there’s almost no division between our personal lives and yet we live in a time where we do want boundaries between our personal lives and our business lives. It’s getting more challenging to navigate what that boundary is because showing up authentically and honest is an important part of who we are as entrepreneurs and business people as well. I was absolutely shocked at my process of coming out and how my clients, the business world, absolutely embraced my bravery, my truth, my authenticity and the fact that I truly believe it inadvertently enhanced my career.
It also brought up such a degree of bravery in me that business pivots after that are small potatoes. Pivoting from being a photographer to a coach is like that’s no big deal. When you’ve already gone through a personal pivot which for me, I’ve got three kids. I had to tell, once you’ve gone through a major pivot but to me, it is the conviction by which I live my life in a way now that refuses to ever be put in the closet again is what’s important. If that’s how it shows up in business too, I will never be put back into a closet because I understand how it stifles who we are. I don’t let whether it’s controversy or whether it’s disagreement. I don’t let those things back me down because I will never hide in the closet again because the journey to get out is way too strong. I gave a TEDx Talk. The talk was called Validation Paradox, which is a chapter of my book and that’s what’s interesting. In the book it’s presented as a business lesson, then on the TEDx stage, I presented it as a personal lesson.
The validation paradox is such that we’re on this journey to find ourselves, all that we’re capable of, our greatness. We somehow believe that we’re supposed to do this on our own when the reality is, we are inherently limited by our own preconceived definitions of ourselves, our own preconceived expectations. The only way we reach levels of greatness beyond what we expect of ourselves is when we allow others to see greatness in us. Other people see what we’re capable of in us more than we can see in ourselves. In the end, I wrap up my TEDx Talk by saying, “We may think we’re hiding in closets, but I have come to believe we’re more like glass shower stalls, fogged up but far more translucent than we realize.” If you think about what it means to be in a glass shower stall that’s fogged up, the fog is on the inside. It’s not in the outside, the fog is on the inside and it’s our job to wipe away that fog so that others can see us clearly and we can see out and then you’re living an awesome life.
It goes back to something you said about how important clarity is. Clarity leads to confidence, it leads to so many things in our lives.
I use that same metaphor by the way with my branding work. I do the same metaphor, it’s like, “It’s your job to make your message clear and your branding so that people can see you.”
Clear the fog and it’s done. Last question and I always ask this one because I both learn something when I do and also, it’s so interesting how we’re built the same way. More and more, we realize the fact that we are unique and have our own free will but yet there are so many commonalities. There is so much connection and ultimately that’s the movement I believe that’s where we’re always headed toward closing the gap between us, not widening it. I appreciate you being on the show to help close that gap as well. What is one or some of the rituals that you used to show up bigger and better every day?
My favorite ritual which I do present in Lingo as well and it ties in so beautifully to your show because you talk a lot about gratitude and blessings. I’ve always been a little challenged by gratitude because I innately am grateful for breathing. I’m grateful for the blue sky. I’m grateful for so many things. Personally, I was grappling to find something more actionable because I failed at a gratitude journal every time I attempted it because there was no end to what I wanted to write. I wasn’t seeing it changed my mindset. I created what I call a What’s Going Right journal. This is what I put out there and it’s similar, but it feels to me like it is a little more actionable and other people have said that it’s working for them. It’s a process of journaling and identifying what’s going right for you. What we know, and we know this through science and we know through spirituality that what you focus on you get more of. If you start acknowledging more of what’s going right, you start seeing more of what’s going right and then it brings up the big question, is it what’s happening or are you just seeing it? I think it’s a little bit of both. It’s not a black or white world, it’s a little bit of both.
I’m a little more woo-woo than you probably and I’m a former lawyer. What you focus on does expand in a variety of ways.
To me, What’s Going Right journal has been actionable because it’s got that spiritual component of seeing what’s going right and then seeing the results physically. I’m seeing more of that. It’s been a great practice. I personally do it as a two-step practice. I get up in the morning and I start journaling about what’s going right and find myself oddly struggling to identify what is going right. Life has so many problems, so many challenges, and the workday is tough. Initially, I’m struggling to see what’s going right because as we all know you can hear nine compliments, one criticism, we’re going to focus on the criticism. I get myself as far as I can and then I go take my dogs for a walk on the beach for 45 minutes and the floodgates open. I start seeing everything.
It’s like the gratefulness of being alive starts igniting, this is going right. I was introduced to this person. I’m meeting amazing people, that’s going right. I’ve got a new coaching client, that’s going right and I come home and then I finish it off from my journal and it’s like rapid speed. For me, I do it in a two-step process. I like to bump up against the wall. I get to bump up against the block of how ridiculous it is that I can’t see what’s going right because my brain is stuck with what’s going wrong. I like to hit against the wall, breathe, give myself space and then let the floodgates open and then I can see so much of what’s going right. That brings and invites more of what’s going right. That’s my morning ritual.
I love to close out each of these shows with a prayer and it’s a wish, it’s a hope, it’s also a prayer for me and that is that we all get to wake up again tomorrow. Regardless of what may be going right or may not be perceived as going right in your life at the moment, by virtue of the fact you’ve been reading this, something went right because you woke up. I don’t believe there’s any accident about that. You can call it what you want. I don’t mind using the word God. Some people say source or spirit. Some people, that’s not their belief system at all but I don’t believe there’s any mistake about the fact that we received this day for a purpose and that’s a blessing. Even for the most cynical of people, that’s certainly not a guarantee. We weren’t guaranteed this day and nobody’s guaranteed us tomorrow.
My prayer is that you all wake up tomorrow. That you, Jeffrey, your family, your friends and everybody in your world which includes everybody in my world, that we all get to wake up tomorrow. In that moment where we recognize at first that we are in fact waking up, that we are conscious again. There can be a recognition of the truths. The truth is that at that moment tomorrow or whenever that is for all of you, there are people who will be taking their last breath as you’re taking your first. Your first conscious breath and others will be taking their last. Even at that moment, there will be babies born and at that moment they will be taking their first breath as well. It is not an ordinary moment. It’s not a common moment. I’d even say it’s a sacred moment, it’s a holy moment and that’s something to be grateful for. The three steps are the waking practice I share with everybody and each time because it’s a reminder for all of you but it’s also a reminder for me.
We get to wake up tomorrow, so I hope right now you’ll put your hand up or on your heart and say “Yes. I will wake up tomorrow.” That’s an intention. In that moment of waking, you can be grateful for that blessing. If you feel like it, this is the part that I love doing as much as any of it which is in my bed or when my feet hit the floor to say these words out loud, “I love my life. I love my life. I love my life.” I wish that for all of you. Jeffrey, what a blessing to have you on the show. Thanks for being here.
I’m honored. Thank you, Adam.
- Jeffrey Shaw
- Creative Warriors
- Lingo: Discover Your Ideal Customer’s Secret Language and Make Your Business Irresistible
- The Future of Work
- Validation Paradox
About Jeffrey Shaw
Having a keen eye isn’t just for what one sees, but also for what one senses. Having been one of the most sought-after portrait photographers in the U.S. for more than three decades, Jeffrey Shaw, a.k.a. the Lingo Guy, uses this honed intuition to teach entrepreneurs how to attract their ideal customers by speaking their Secret Language. Jeffrey is the host of the popular business podcast Creative Warriors, a nationally acclaimed keynote speaker, a business coach for entrepreneurs, and author of the bestselling book, LINGO: Discover Your Ideal Customer’s Secret Language and Make Your Business Irresistible.