Bio: Maggie Patterson is a communications strategist who works with entrepreneurs and corporations  to help them craft intelligent communications strategies that boost the bottom line. With 15+ years experience, Maggie has worked with big brands and solopreneurs, and has run her own successful communications agency for nearly 10 years. She’s the host of the Marketing Moxie podcast and her work has been featured by, and The Huffington Post.

Show Notes:

The Storytelling Animal Book

How The World Sees You by Sally Hogshead

Story Distillery


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Zephan: Zephan Blaxberg here with another episode of the Year of Purpose podcast, and today I have the great pleasure to introduce you to Maggie Patterson. Now Maggie is a communications strategist who works with entrepreneurs in corporations to help them craft intelligent communication strategies that boost the bottom line. With fifteen plus years in experience, Maggie has worked with big brands and solo-preneurs and has run her own successful communications agency for nearly ten years. She’s the host of the Marketing Moxie podcast and her work has been featured by,, and the Huffington post. Maggie, how are you doing today?

Maggie: I’m doing great! How are you doing?

Zephan: I’m doing super great. I’m happy that spring is getting very close. I know we were talking about how the weather’s getting up and down, but I see the sun is out right now and things are definitely getting warmer over here.

Maggie: Yeah, us too. I’m just hoping that this is it and there’s not some big like surprise snowstorm Easter weekend or something.

Zephan: Me too! So I wanted to bring you on the show today because one of the big things that you talk about is the art and science of stories and storytelling. And so, I think that this is a valuable piece of information, a valuable tool for pretty much everybody. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, I think that you connect with people on a deeper level if you’re able to tell your story the right way and to get your message across. So how about we just get started with tell me about the art and science of stories and why it’s so important in our everyday life?

Maggie: Here’s the thing. I mean, if we just look at it from a science perspective, I mean, I could probably have a twenty-part podcast series just talking about the science of podcast storytelling. But I think what we really need to know when we’re telling stories is that there’s an actual psychological reason our stories work. And that’s why when we hear a story, we kind of lean in. our body language changes. All of a sudden we’re more engaged. And you know what you’re out and you see two people sitting at the bar and they’re like totally magnetized cause they’re talking to each other? They’re telling stories. They’re not reciting facts.

You know, you look at story telling as this pattern. It’s a pattern that we are conditioned from birth to recognize. We learn numbers, we learn letters, we learn colors, shapes—stories are the exact same thing. You think back to all the years ago before we had verbal communication, we still used stories. You know, cave drawings? So when you actually tell a story, something different happens in the brain. When we talking in facts, two parts of the brain activates. When we talk in stories, and we share stories, multiple parts of the brain get in on the actions. And like you think about somebody’s talking to you about movement, all of a sudden your motor cortex is going. Someone’s talking about something happy, the part of your brain that processes—one of those receptors, I can’t keep them all straight. There’s too many! But something different and magical happens in the brain.

So when you use stories instead of facts and try to appeal to people’s logic, that’s what really gets them. And that’s why when you see really great compelling presentations or videos or TEDx Talks or whatever it is, they’re using a story. Because a story is what makes us human and everyone has something interesting to say even if we don’t think we actually do.

Zephan: So is this why—and this happens to me often times when I hear a story—is this why I can almost see it in my head verses if I’m just watching a power presentation of “first you to this, then you do that” and I’m just staring at the screen like “what is going on…”

Maggie: That’s totally it. And you know what’s really interesting is there’s this entire idea that when you hear a story, you make it a positive association, generally. And then that positive association, what it does is it—it like lodges in our brain. And then it becomes part of our imagination. And then eventually, if it’s been hanging out there long enough, it just becomes part of what we know. So we no longer have any objections to it. It’s like, all of a sudden it’s become factual information we use in our day to day lives. And if you can engage that verses like “53% of people say blah,” it makes a huge difference in how we remember it, how we recalled it, and how we actually connect with the person and associate with them.

Zephan: So you had a great example there of how we can use it with the 53% idea. What are some of the ways that we could take advantage of this, whether it’s meeting a random stranger in a store—cause maybe that talk turns into they become my client somehow—and so how can we kind of leverage this story telling factor to just increase all of our experiences—or at least benefit our experiences with other people?

Maggie: So, you know, in just kind of a day to day, going about your business, it’s gonna depend on your personality. Are you introverted? Are you extroverted? Are you someone who really loves to talk a lot? Are you someone who’s more guarded? But I always say to people there’s two things you can do. Number one is instead of just kind of reciting factual information, find a way to ground it in an experience you had. So like a lot of times, I’m a mom, so I will talk about something my son did. And that’s something very human, very relatable. You know, stepping on a Lego. You’re gonna remember “Oh, Maggie’s the girl who keeps stepping on Legos and she’s having this moments about Legos.”

Or, you know, quirky facts. People remember quirky facts. I’m Canadian, so I make fun a lot of the fact that maple syrup in our house is like a major commodity. I just got two new bottles yesterday! But I mean that—the fact that I love maple syrup, you’re gonna remember that more than “I really like—” You know, “This book was kind of awesome.” No, you’re gonna remember like the quirky different things that people always remember.

You want to make sure that those are real, genuine things. I mean, I really do genuinely love maple syrup. I genuinely love gardening. So those are things I talk about. So just bring through your personality a little bit. You don’t have to be so mechanical and guarded. And even if you work in a corporate position, you’re still allowed to have a personal life and a personality in that position.

Zephan: So the maple story—the maple syrup story is gonna work way better than the 53% story, most of the time. Or probably all the time.

Maggie: Unless you have like a robot person—in which case, you don’t want to hang out with them anyways.

Zephan: Right, right. So, how about his: the people who are great at talking in general—I’m somebody who will randomly say something to somebody in the store. Perfect stranger, I’ll joke about whatever, right. But some people are introverted, like you said. So how do we overcome that fear? Because, obviously, we’re missing out on something by not telling our story or not opening up to other people. What can we do if we are quieter most of the time?

Maggie: So this is something, like, I personally—I’m an INTJ, I get it. I’ve learned to be extroverted by necessity, because I chose a career in communications. So you can’t really be quiet or all those extroverts will take over. But I think—you know, you need to operate where you’re comfortable. So if you’re not someone who’s gonna turn over in Barnes & Noble and start talking to the person next to you, you don’t have to do that. But maybe you’re gonna find opportunities in small conversations, or small networking events, where you can have deeper, more intimate conversations that are gonna serve you better. I know for me, like, I personally—throwing me in a huge room, I’ll just totally shrink back. Whereas, I’m in a group of three or four people, where we can have a genuine dialogue, I know I’m gonna do a lot better. So try to line up opportunities for yourself where you can be successful and you are gonna be more comfortable.

And, you know, the other thing is, too, you have to just remember that it’s a skill, practicing. When I started doing any sort of public speaking, I used to be so nauseous and sweaty—like I almost failed my persuasion class in college because I couldn’t get it together to do my speeches. So, you know, it’s always gonna be an improvement, so just push yourself a little bit more. If you’ve never done something, don’t think you’re gonna be amazing the first time you do it. A lot of practice and building your confidence.

Zephan: Right. Taking small steps here are there. Maybe talking to people when you’re in a smaller group. That’s something that I get too. I can’t really go to a networking group of a hundred, hundred and fifty people and just walk up to a random strangers. Often times, I will actually do that. I’ll find the groups of three or four people that are standing around and I’ll just kind of stand there and look really lost, like a sad puppy, until somebody comes and is like “So what do you do? Who are you? Why are you just standing here watching us?” But it works out really well, so there are ways to take advantage of, you know, being in that big group scenario and opening up to a smaller group within that.

Along with telling a story, sometimes—so growing up, we learned to have a filter, right. Like you don’t just go out in public and say something crazy like “My kid wrote all over the wall today in permanent marker!” Like, you just don’t tell random people that. And perhaps there are other things that we want to tell people that we really shouldn’t. So how do we determine what needs to go into the story and what needs to stay out?

Maggie: So this really comes down to two things. Is listening. You need to really listen before you tell stories, and I think this is where someone who’s a little more on the introverted side has a definite advantage. Because you’re able to say “Oh, okay.” You’re able to take their information, make a better judgment call about information you should be telling a story about, what kind of information you should be sharing. The other thing I thing is, too, is really kind of trust your gut. Like if your gut is going “[gasp] I don’t know if I should say that…” maybe you shouldn’t. You should just really kind of get attuned.

And I see this a lot. I work a lot with online entrepreneurs, and it’s really in style right now to let all your dirty laundry hang out, and I’m like “Oh my gosh! No! I will never do business with you!” because you seem flaky or unreliable. So, you know, be authentic, be vulnerable, but be selective! Like, I don’t talk about like “Oh, on Thursday, I was crying.” Like…no one needs to know that! You don’t want to do business with a crying person, you want to do business with the person who has it together!

Zephan: Exactly. And so—I actually have a really good friend of mine right now who we’re working on actually writing out her story, because I feel like when she has spoken a few times, she leaves out certain details that I think could allow people to care more about it.

This was something that I hit when, uhm—when I was in college, I produced a feature film. This was something that probably my most proud accomplishment while I was in college. And there was this hundred and eighteen page script. It was written by a fraternity brother of mine, true story about his mother passing away. And I read it and I’m like “Wow! This is a really good story! But when I turn this into a movie, I don’t know if people are gonna sit there for two hours and say the same thing…” and we had to go back in a try to figure out how to alter it without embellishing what actually happened so that people cared about it.

So are there certain things within our stories that influence people to care more about what’s going on? Because you we saying a lot of different receptors in our heads fire off. Like for example, if I were to describe to you—I’m a rower. If I really started to describe what it’s like to be rowing in a boat, you’d probably understand this misty spray that comes up off the water and the smell of the harbor, because it’s kind of gross sometimes, and…you know, you could probably sense that in your mind. So how can we encourage people through our stories to see what’s going on for us?

Maggie: It’s—you know, it’s so hard. I think that—here’s the thing. As humans, we’re really, really inherently selfish. So there’s always kind of that little ticker that goes through the back of our head that goes “What’s in it for me?” So—and, you know, it’s a psychological principal of implicit egoism. So if you’re telling stories, you want to—people like people like them. So it comes back to what I was talking a few minutes ago, that common ground. So maybe I haven’t rode, but I used to play field hockey. And hey, maybe there’s a connect—oh hey! We’re gonna talk about the early morning practice!

I can identify with that story in some way, whereas, I think sometimes…the challenge is—if you have a really big story, like…it’s so hard sometimes for people to identify. Like, and I always talk about the rags to riches story, like… “I don’t have a rags to riches story, so I’m not gonna tell my story.” Or, “wow, that’s so outrageous. I can’t even being to understand that.” So I think you need to kind of parse your stories in a way where people can find that common ground with you and you are tapping into that like and like factor so that they can at least start there, before you drop them into the middle of the epic story where they’re like “…I don’t even know—” Like, you know, what you were talking about with your friend. They don’t even know what to do with that and you’ve all of a sudden made them uncomfortable. And when they’re uncomfortable, they start to recoil from you.

Zephan: So let’s not drop them in the eye of the storm just yet. Let’s kind of throw out some of the details and make sure, strategically, that they’re ones that people can start to relate to even if they’ve never been in that experience before, is that right?

Maggie: Yeah. Yeah, I would warm people up. There’s a reason—like in—and you know this from film. There’s a reason you don’t start with a battle in Star Wars with Darth Vader. Like, Luke does not meet Darth Vader in the first scene! You need to warm people up. So kind of think of that story, the angle’s gonna go up til we reach the exciting moment and then we’ll have the climax and the resolution. Don’t just start at the climax, you’re gonna mess people up.

Zephan: Right. It gets them too excited right off the bat, or not even excited because there was no build up, and then the story just crashes and burns, I feel like. So let me ask you this, though, when—you’ve been doing this for quite some time now. Did you ever have a point when your first got started where you were afraid to tell your own story?

Maggie: Oh my gosh, yes! [laughs] Completely! So I’ve been running my own business for almost ten years, but I would say, for the first…probably eight years of the business, probably, I was doing my work and I was successful, but I wasn’t doing it fully as me. And I realize that, at a certain point, I’m like—I think turning forty kinda tipped the scales and I went “I don’t care anymore.” If I’m working with a corporate client and they can’t handle that I’m the kind of person who’s gonna drop an F-bomb in a blog post, I don’t really care anymore. And I think that there’s just—at that point, it’s a matter of being comfortable with what I was doing and being confident in it.

At the same time, though, I was—you know, there’s that little part of me that was being held back. And I think that you kind of need to be able to…sometimes just let it out. Let that freak flag fly. And now I work with clients who totally get me and appreciate me for that. So, you know, the story telling is always gonna be an evolution of getting more comfortable and confident and moving along that spectrum. You probably aren’t gonna watch this and the next day be like “I’m gonna tell you everything!” Story is iterative and always gonna be evolving.

Zephan: I like—you said “let that freak flag fly”? Is that what you said?

Maggie: Yeah. Yeah, let your freak flag fly.

Zephan: That’s—first of all, that’s a tongue twister, but second of all, I think that’s a really cool way to go about thinking about yourself and what you’re sharing with the world. Just let it out. I mean, don’t go telling them all of your deepest, darkest secrets, but like you said, not being afraid if you have to drop an F-bomb in a blog post. If they don’t like it, then—obviously that’s who you are. So you want people who are gonna follow who you are. And I think that’s really important.

Maggie: Yeah, and you know, in my own career, I really feel like when I first started out, I spent so much time—because I looked young and, you know, I was inexperienced—trying to be something I wasn’t because I was in a position of authority and my clients needed to know they were secure. So they got to see this very narrow view of me. And then when I started freelancing, you know, I had to present the picture of the perfect consultant that you could very much—you would pay me this money and it would be very reliable! And now I’m just kind of like “Yeah, I’m here. I’m experienced. Deal with it.” Like…but I mean, that took fifteen years.

Zephan: Yeah, no, it takes a long time. It’s not something where you’re gonna go to sleep tonight and say “Alright, tomorrow, this is how it’s gonna be. Let’s go!” There’s no magic wand, but there’s definitely little steps to take over time to start getting used to it.

So, let’s try this for a second: So I know that quite a few people who listen in right now, I’ve actually gotten to skype with a few of them, some of them are actually about ready to quit their jobs. They want to follow what they really want to do. How could they leverage their story of quitting their job? Because I do this quite often. I used to work at the Apple store in Apple retail, and I often times tell people that, you know, somebody came in one day with a broken phone and they had had it. I mean, they cause a scene in front of like two hundred people, packed store, and I just kind of stood there. Cause this is normal for me, right, but I just had this moment of, you know, “Are you done yet?” and that’s when my decision kind of came in and I was like “Alright. This is it. This is done.” And I tell a lot of people that story because it really…it resonates with them. They understand it. They’ve been at that point in their job where they’re just so done with everything.

So how could we leverage telling the story of, you know, perhaps leaving our job, when we’re fresh as an entrepreneur. You know, we don’t—we can’t go and say we’ve been doing this for ten or fifteen or twenty years because, you know, maybe I just quit my job working for some accounting firm and I’m becoming a photographer, so I have no real world experience. How can I at least make people realize I’m a genuine person and trustworthy person?

Maggie: You know, I think there is something that we—especially if you hang out with other entrepreneurs, you forget how aspirational your job story is. Like, I’m sure when you tell your friends that, that work in normal jobs, they’re always like “[dreamy sigh] I wish I could do what you do…” and I think if you could just use that to your advantage… We start to think it’s so common place. We start to think it’s so normal. It’s not. Not everyone quits their job! Most people don’t! They check the boxes! They follow the rules! So I think if you can demonstrate the connection between why you quit your job, why you do what you do today, and like why you were so called to it.

And like—you know, here’s the thing. Experience, it’s—I think we’re past the point with experience where you have to have this big ten thousand hours. You have people that are sixteen years old that are more insanely talented on YouTube than you can ever imagine, and they don’t have ten thousand hours. So think—if you’re not experienced, it’s factual. It’s not something you need to apologize for, because obviously you’re gonna figure out how to make it work, and you’re gonna gain the experience as you go. And if the only story you have is the “I quit my job,” make it juicy.

Zephan: Make it juicy. That’s awesome. So this can really become almost like our new brand. I could be the unemployed employee in a sense. My brand could be I’m the unemployable employee, maybe. Maybe people can’t employ me. How can we use this in our branding and in our marketing? So maybe in logos or in our taglines or just in who we are on social media, how can we go about using that?

Maggie: That’s a good question. I think—you know here—it’s gonna depend on your audience. It gonna depend on your thing. If you were—for example, if you were doing videography, if you really wanted to go after doing a lot of corporate clients, I would never use the word unemployable. Cause unemployable, with the entrepreneur circles, is like “Yes! I’m unemployable!” but to a corporate client, it’s gonna seem like “Wow, they’re a deadbeat.”

Zephan: Right, cause “I have six hundred employees.”

Maggie: Exactly! They wouldn’t give me—no one would give them a job. So think about the context of who you’re serving. If you’re a wedding photographer, no one cares that you’re unemployable! Maybe you care that this person has so much creative vision and so much passion that they quit their job so they could do this full time and they are wholly dedicated to making sure your wedding photos are the best possible thing ever! So that context for where you’re operating, for my clients, they really like that I’ve had a business a long time and I play that up because they’re like “Whoa, she’s been around this long, she must be good!” So use the context of what your market needs to hear from you and what your audience is really looking for.

Zephan: So we’ve heard a lot about telling our stories, but now I’d be interested in hearing from you. So I’m curious, what do you love the most about what you do and your business?

Massie: Oh, my gosh, I love so many things! I think—you know, here’s the thing. I like—I will never deny the fact that I like I’m the boss. I like the fact that I never have to ask for vacation leave. Like these are things that everyone loves, but I really love them, because I used to always be so scared when I put in my vacation leave. I’d be like “Please don’t say no, I’ve already booked the plane ticket! I got a good deal, I’m going to Europe!” But I think it’s—ultimately, for me, I really love my clients, and how I’m able, with the marketing, with the work we’re doing, to really transform them from point A to point B. when I can see from like, for example, my Story Distillery, which is a one-on-one product—when I can see where they walked in and where they walk out with me, and then the transformation that happens with how they tell their story and what they’re doing in their business, that gets me really, really excited.

When a client emails me and says “I just want to let you know I applied what we did and I’ve had the highest traffic on a blog post I’ve ever had,” that, to me, is rewarding. Because, ultimately, money? Money’s nice, but…money doesn’t keep you warm at night.

Zephan: Very true! So, Story Distillery, what is this?

Maggie: So Story Distillery is essentially—I have distilled many, many years of sitting in boardrooms and on the phone with working with people on their story and I’ve created a four part process where, essentially we look at four different types of stories. Stories that your customers need to hear, and understanding what conversations you’re going to be a part of and where you fit in the market. I think a lot of times, we tend to figure out a story, show up and go “Da-da-dadaa! Here I am!” and it’s like “Noo…” Again, going to that context. Then we look at what’s your personal story, your back story? How do all these pieces get together? The results and credibility you have and really talking about the things you do for your clients, the results you get them.

And the last part, I call “Bold and Brazen” where we really talk about things within your industry. Whether you’re a chef or a wedding photographer, or coach, what are things within your industry that you feel strongly need to change, that you want to stand up for, that you want really—you feel passionate—I hate—I really don’t like that word passionate. Cause I—passion is so overused, but the things that you feel most called to be talking about. so we go through that entire process as a one-on-one service, and by the end, they come out and they have like a really good, strong game plan for how to actually use stores in there business.

Zephan: And, how long is that process from start to finish? At least, until you can provide them with the “Here’s your what you need to do.”

Maggie: Start to finish, Story Distillery is about two weeks. So pre-work, call, Maggie goes away, lives, breathes, eats your story, and at the end, here’s your handbooks and you’re ready. Rock and roll.

Zephan: Very cool. Well, I think I actually have a couple people to talk to you later about, because I know some people who would probably be interested in that. So, you know, you’ve got—you love your clients. You love what you’re doing. –What’s that?

Maggie: I do. I really, really do. I’m not just saying it.

Zephan: So, what do you love about your life outside of work? Because there’s an important balance to make sure you’re taking care of your business, but you’re also taking care of yourself.

Maggie: Wow—first and foremost, I mean, I’m a mom. So I love my little ten year old! And my husband. Like, you know, my family is the reason I quit my job, and the reason I actually took—jumped out of the plane like I did and never went back to work after my maternity leave. So really, that’s what drives me. I love traveling. We’re huge, huge travelers. I love my garden. I love books. I love Netflix. I love wine. I love maple syrup. That’s about it.

Zephan: Well that’s why you’re a distiller. You love wine and you love maple syrup!

Maggie: Yep! Yep, pretty much, that’s where that theme kind of got picked up.

Zephan: So, in sharing your story with the world, in sharing others’ stories with the world, I have to imagine that your quality of life has changed since you started this journey. Because you’re learning a lot about a ton of other people. You’re learning a lot about yourself. Maybe talk just a little bit about your quality of life and where you were, let’s say, ten years ago compare to now?

Maggie: Oh, my gosh, ten years ago, my quality of life was horrible. Because I had a child—a very small child. I was very sleep deprived. But I think in terms of my quality of life, like…you know, I don’t really believe in work/life balance, I believe more in a harmony. I think starting out in my business and being a mom of a really small child, like I just had nothing left in me. And the difference now is I’m working with clients that energize me, that I genuinely like as people. That makes it—there’s just so much more personal gratification that goes on. And then I can see like how what I’m doing impacts my son’s view on the world and like, just, you know, yesterday I took the day off because I wanted to hang out with him. So those little tiny things all add up to a much better, happier, healthier approach to life.

Like, my friends who haven’t seen me for a while, since I started making changes through my business, they’re like “You’re different… You’re like more sparkly or something.”

Zephan: They’re probably jealous!

Maggie: Yeah, they were jealous of me before, but now they’re really jealous because not only am I self-employed and thriving, I’m also really insanely happy. It’s kind of gross to them, I think, and annoying.

Zephan: There’s nothing wrong with being insanely happy though.

Maggie: Yeah. I am insanely happy. It’s a little worrisome at times, I’m sure, for some people.

Zephan: Do you have any books, or maybe any mentors that you recommend listening to that have perhaps just helped you learn some things, whether it’s about yourself or in helping your clients?

Maggie: I actually have it right here. This book here—

Zephan: Oh, my gosh! That’s literally in front of me right now! That’s is—wow!

Maggie: So this, two years ago when I decided to change my business, I took the how to fascinate test. It change my perspective on myself, so much. Because—and when I shared this with people, like my actual test results, they were like “It is so you!” So instead of being all these things, I know now innovation is a driving force for me. And I’ve gone so—I’m so—the reason I have this on my desk right now is I actually just did certification with Sally and her team because I believe so much in this process. And I use it with my clients. I think there’s something really powerful about learning how the world sees you, verses how you are internally. How the world sees you is very different than what’s going on up here.

So I really think this is a fundamental books that everyone needs to read. So that’s How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead, and take the fascination test. It’s like thirty-seven dollars—I’m not selling anything here. I’m not giving an affiliate link. I just think it’s really, really important to get an outside perspective and kind of rejig what you might be thinking.

Zephan: It’s really cool that you have that on your desk. Because, ironically, that is the book that I’m using to hold up the tripod for my camera right now. [Maggie laughing.] And the reason why it is the book I’m using to hold up for my tripod for my camera is because it is a constant reminder that it is my next book on my list to read after I finish the current one that I’m on. So I’m actually diving into that one next. It’s really cool to see that that’s been an important thing for both you and your clients because I’ll be jumping into that very soon here.

So for everyone watching, the name of that book, I will actually write it into our show notes on our website with a link to Amazon for you, right on our site as A lot of people listen in both on iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube—this kind of goes out into a bunch of different places. So, if you guys are listening right now, definitely check out the website because I will be posting a link to that.

Uhm—it has been awesome talking to you, Maggie. What are some of the ways for people to get in touch with you if they want to check out your distillery program or anything else that you do?

Maggie: Uhm, probably the best place is always my digital home, which is, and that’s Patterson with two T’s. And you will find me on Twitter tweeting, you know, sharing my life in a hundred and forty characters or less.

Zephan: Good deal. Well, thanks so much for being here today. I hope that the weather is getting warmer by you guys very soon, and I would love to chat with you more—maybe next time on the Year of Purpose podcast. Thanks for being here.


J. Massey wasn’t always the Real Estate Investor he is today. His road was paved with challenges he had to overcome. He literally went from having zero, squatting in bank-owned property to owning more than 300 units of property across several states and is involved in a pretty cool luxury resort village project in Belize. Today, J. is an investor, published author, speaker, educator, podcast host, entrepreneur and business owner. His brand, Cash Flow Diary, is gaining global recognition.

Show Notes:

Cash Flow Diary

Cash Flow Diary Facebook

Cash Flow Diary Podcast

How To Raise Money For Your Business


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Zephan: Hey, everyone. Zephan Blaxberg here again with another episod4e of the Year of Purpose podcast. And today I’m joined by J. Massey. J. wasn’t always the real estate investor he is today. His road was paved with challenges he had to overcome. He literally went from having zero, squatting in a bank owned property to owning more than three hundred units of property across several states, and is involved in a pretty cool luxury resort village project in Belize. Today, J.’s an investor, published author, speaker, educator, podcast host, entrepreneur, and business owner. His brand Cash Flow Diary is getting global recognition. J., thanks so much for being here today.

J.: You’re welcome. And you know, somewhere in there, I actually sleep, believe it or not.

Zephan: I don’t know how you do it, because I’m kind of in the same boat. I’ve got a lot of things on my plate and I don’t sleep very often, but still have to do it from time to time.

J.: I know, it’s like if your body didn’t force you, why take the time?

Zephan: Right, right. So I want to jump into your story just to start this off, and I didn’t want to really give away too many details of this. I didn’t want to do it any disservice, so maybe hopefully you could just start off with us, maybe tell us kind of where you were a few years back, and how you found yourself there.

J.: Heh-heh, well…how I found myself there is probably something that many people are familiar with at the end of the day, because I was told to go to school, get good grades, get a job, that’s—you know, that was the way to make things work, and it took me many years to find out I was the worst employee on the planet and I should have never been. So—that, you know, that’s how we end up in these situations. The question is, do we then develop the courage necessary to actually do something about it? And for me, to be honest, unless the following events that happened to me happened, I don’t even think I would have ever developed the courage to actually do something about it.

So for myself and my wife, we had experienced a miscarriage and I know there are a number of people who know what that pain feels like. And so when we were pregnant again, we were like “Oh, cool, he we go!” and…what we didn’t know is that when she’s pregnant, she also developed a condition known as hyperemesis. Most people have no clue what that is. Very simply put, if you are trying to drink a glass of water, or eat something as simple as bread, you would not be able to. So you couldn’t drink or eat. Period. And that’s the beginning of the stressors that were in my life at that time.

So I was a self-employed financial planner, trying to go to the hospital with my wife all the time, which meant that—you know, you can’t exactly invite your client to the hospital to meet you to do their financial plan. It’s not quite the setting that—that you should. So as a self-employed person, I began to learn a very difficult lesion. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Period. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There was no such thing as sick leave, and there’s no—there was nothing there. So, I don’t know, I was in this situation I think others have experienced before too where I have to choose. Do I take care of my family or do I go to work? And I chose to stay by my wife’s bedside, and I started selling our personal possessions on eBay. That’s was like the solution—until the garage was empty. And then you gotta come up with a new solution.

And it was around that time a friend said “Hey, you should become a real estate investor” which…I don’t know, Zephan, if you’ve ever seen a dog like cock their head to the side like this. It just didn’t make sense to me to do that. It’s like “Okay, hold on. You want me to become a real estate investor? Do you realize I have a credit score of three-ninety-eight and unless you’re paying for lunch today, I am no eating? Do you understand that this is where I am?” And it didn’t matter to him. And I was like “Okay…sure…” so from that standpoint, like I said, with a credit score of three-ninety-eight, barely having seventy-five dollars in our pocket, we started learning about real estate investing techniques. Now mind you, we’re getting foreclosure notices. We’re getting our cars—we’re doing our best to keep food on the table. We’re making decisions. “Do we pay the electric bill or do we buy food?” And the guy at the front of the stage is like “Hey, you can do real estate!” Really! Good! And then he goes “You can do it with no money, no credit!” “Oh, great, because you’re gonna have to really show me how to do that, otherwise it’s just not gonna happen, because I literally have no money, no credit.”

And most people when they say those things, when they say “I have no money” they mean they’re down to their last dollar. Or down to their last thousand dollars, ten thousand, depending on their frame of reference. I’ve worked with some of my—some individuals who say things like “Yeah, I’m down to my last two million dollars” and that’s fine, today, depending on—it’s all relative. The point is, is when we hit that spot, what are we going to do about it? See I was at this place and what we decided to do is actually do what we were told to do. We started doing what I now call moving at the speed of instruction. And in a short period of time, things began to get better, but before they get better, of course, you know they take a little dip for a little bit worse.

So I went to go play volley ball, because I was trying to blow off some steam. I thought that was gonna help. I jumped, landed on a guy’s head, punctured my lung, and now I couldn’t walk or talk without fainting. So, if you can imagine, I’m learning a new industry that I’ve never done before. I’m unable to walk or talk simultaneously without fainting. My wife can eat or drink. And we have no money. And that’s the situation. With kids in tow. So you’ve gotta understand that that was our situation, and what makes me work and do the things that I do today. When you’re fighting for something as basic as clothing, food, and shelter, and you’re really clear on that—well, you get to work and you make a lot of things happen. So we’ve been able—we’ve had the fortune of doing a ton of real estate in many different states. Now countries is what we’re beginning to expand to. We’ve done commercial, we done cellphone tower, we’ve got all kinds of interesting plays and things going on and we work with tons of investors now to go out there and help them begin to achieve their dreams and we’ve taught a lot of people to do the same thing. So it’s been something of a journey, to say the least.

Zephan: Yeah, a journey to say the least, absolutely. Let me ask you this: when you get to that place, because a lot of us have not—many of us have gotten to that place and many of us haven’t. When you look at that bank statement and see that, like, this is it, what goes through your head? Because you had to make that decision of work or family. And you know, in my eyes, and most people, family comes first. Family always comes first. What are you thinking? Some people might get stuck in that negative thought of “I’m a failure” or “I messed up” or “I didn’t make this.” How do you kind of turn that around and say “Well, here’s where I’m at and this is what’s going on and I’m just gonna keep going from here”?

J.: Got it—and you’re right, it’s not like I was any different. That was a failure event. So the first thing to understand is to disassociate the events from it being you. Many of us have had failure events, very few of us are actually failures. And you may have failed thousands of times, that’s great. Thomas Edison failed a lot of times before he finally got the lightbulb, fortunately he did. Because he was willing to fail as many times as he did, we now have computers and all kinds of interesting things that come along from that, right. So the point is that—we have been—the school system to a degree as done us a disservice, training us to think that we have to get it right, that we have to get it right the first time, and without any help. That’s the correct way to do things. And once you cross that line to become an entrepreneur, that’s just not true. You’re going to get it wrong more than you get it right, many times, and you’re going to need a ton of help. And until we learn how to fail properly, it’s always going to stunt our growth and make it tough.

And that’s one of the first lessons that I had to learn, is that might best ideas—and Zephan, you correct me if I’m wrong—but I have never met a person who has said to me they wake up in the morning and go “I can’t wait to aim straight for the bottom!” No one has ever said that to me. Everybody tries their best every day. Which means the result you’re currently receiving, that you call your life experience, is a result of your absolute best thinking. And when you’re ready to take ownership for that result being less than what you hopes for, then you can begin to make a change and that’s what we had to do. We had to just look at it. “You know what, this is a result of our best thinking.” We did the best we knew how to do and it resulted in losing a house, squatting a bank owned property, a punctured lung, unable to eat or drink, and making decisions that I don’t wish on anybody.

However, the gift is we got clear. Hyper clear about what we wanted to do. And then we got hyper focused and then we learned those things. Nothing—crisis focuses people in a way that nothing else does. Any time you’ve ever been under those high intense situations, you know that every moment counts at the end of the day. Even worse is most people say they want to become an investor. I say you already are. And the challenge is that most people don’t see themselves that way. And what I simply mean is we misuse our number one asset, i.e. time, in such a way that it produces a very low return and then we get upset about the result. And learning how to frame those things differently has made all the difference.

Zephan: Yeah, I really like what you said about it’s really kind of how we react to whatever’s going on in our life. One of the positions that I held when I was in college was I was the supervisor of the recreation center and I was the first responder, and if somebody passed out on the basketball court, I was the first person to get the call on the radio. And you really kind of learned in that position that you can’t go “Oh my god! What am I gonna do?” You have to get up there, you have to be the first person on the scene, and you have to be the one to call 911 and to make sure that that situation is as controlled as you possibly can. There’s a lot of stuff beyond your control, biological factors, whatever’s going on with them, but as long as you reacted in a way where you know that you did your best, I think that the situation’s going to end up for the better.

Now when you were in all of this and your friend comes to you and says “Hey, you could pick up real estate investing”—

J.: That’s a natural response—everybody has that idea! That makes perfect sense!

Zephan: How did you know that this was what you should do? Was there some sort of a sign where it was just like “Hey, we got nothing left to lose, let’s just go with it?” I mean—

J.: Oh, god, I know, right! It’s like “Yeah that makes sense.” Well it’s a combination of a number of things. One, it speaks to the power of a mentor who’s willing to have a third party observance of what’s going on in your life and they may have a better perspective. So that’s number one. Number two, I—as a financial planner—I had experience in the sense of seeing what financially successful people have done. And being out here in Orange County, California, there’s lots of money. Period. There are lots of people with money, and I got to sit with them. I’ve got to sit with teachers. I got to sit with single professionals who are earning two, three hundred thousand dollars and still crying broke. And I got to sit with everything in between to figure out how that all works. And probably closer to two hundred thousand, especially on the single people, but married people even then, still.

The point is, I got to see what they did. They all had something in common. That one thing that they had in common was rental real estate. Not just fixing and flipping and those types of things. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they all had rental real estate if they are actually gonna be on a track to make things happen. My challenge was, is I didn’t grow up in a family that talked about these types of financial concepts. There’s nothing in my background that gives me—the way that I grew up—that says “Hey! This is what you should do…” and there’s a guy out there who says “If something that you’re doing isn’t working, don’t do it differently, do the opposite.” Like, wow, there you go. So when you’re in that situation, like “Hey, let’s do the opposite of everything that we’ve ever done.” Now that’s gonna be painful at the beginning, but that’s okay. At the end of the day, I’ve got very strong ties to church, God, and in my family, friends who were willing to support—cause my wife, oh my god. You want to talk about something that’s amazing, she comes from a line of doctors, and lawyers, and a whole bunch of college educated individuals, and here I am a college dropout, struggling, and she’s struggling with me, and I’m just like “Wow. You picked a good one, didn’t ya?”

But she saw that I didn’t need to be in the traditional system. There was no happiness for her because I was upset all the time being in that system. Like “You need to do something different. I don’t know what it is, but you better figure it out, find it, make it happen.” And…at the end of the day, real estate just happens to be where my genius shines. We all got something, we bounce around from thing to thing. And the cool thing is, is when you do find the thing that you’re interested in, all that past experience that you have in all those other areas will serve you going towards what it is that you’re doing now. J.ust like it is for you. All your past experience doing whiz-bang awesome videos for all of these awesome people, names that everybody knows and recognizes, is now serving you to be able to deliver your message to people so that they can finally find—hopefully—a purpose for themselves and go out there and make things happen.

Zephan: So let me ask you this: When you get to the moment that you realize that…there’s no real like “I made it moment” because it’s like “How much money in my bank account determines I made it?” is it a hundred thousand, is it a million dollars? But there had to be some sort of a moment where you kind of stopped yourself—I don’t know if it was like one morning and you woke up, or maybe you closed a sale on a house—but was there a moment for you in time where you just kind of like sat down and looked at everything going on around you and said “You know what, look where I was. We couldn’t pay the bills. I couldn’t talk. Freak accident, I got injured—” All these things were happening, and I don’t know if you have a dog or any pets—but did you have a moment where you just sat down and you’re like “I have a house that is mine. I have children that are here today with me that I can enjoy as much time as I want with. And I have pets”—or food or whatever it is—what was that like for you and how could somebody almost identify that moment? What sort of happens?

J.: Yeah—well, how to identify that moment? Good luck. It—as far as I know…here’s what I can say that began to happen…is I didn’t have to get up at any prescribed time. I start—in fact it got so bad to the point where I was kind of waking up around ten a.m. in the morning like “Hey….alright…let’s start the day—oh! It’s one o’clock, time to quit.” And there was in fact a summer a few years back where we were probably at about a hundred and seventeen units or so, and I remember two things. I was car shopping, and I was at the car dealer and they were asking me what do I do and I was just telling them. And then they stopped, they said “You do what? You have how many properties? What??” and then they called another person over here and they were like “This guy did—” and I was just like “…What?”

Zephan: Well they’re probably thinking “We’re in the wrong position. We took the wrong job!”

J.: Right, so that was happening. And then what happened is that I went on a cruise and it was—I went on a cruise, it was one of these real estate cruises and it was great, I had fun, but I was by myself. And I couldn’t have friends, because the friends were at work. And I came back home and I was just frustrated cause everybody had to go to work and I didn’t. So I said “I know, I’ll finally do something I always wanted to do when I was younger and growing up in Germany.” I would always get the catalogues of likes Sears and what have you, and I’d flip through them and look through the stuff that I knew mom wasn’t gonna buy, but I’d look at circle and pretend that it was actually going to happen, and I have this fascination with things that fly. So I started buying remote controlled helicopters. I was like “Yeah, this is great.” And then I got into photography. Same summer. Two of the most expensive habits I am aware of on the planet, at the same time. And I just dove in and did that. And I was like “Wow, I can do this all day!” and I did.

And it got to me, “Is there anything else, though?” I didn’t want to keep doing all these things by myself. And that’s when I began to figure out that I needed something else to do. I needed something else to keep me busy, otherwise I’m just gonna sit around, spend more money than I should, and do nothing with all of this information that I now have to help people. And that’s when I started asking friends “what do you do when you do have to work? Please tell me, because I don’t know!” and that when it began about trying to teach and share with other people what it is that I do, and have done, and helping them to do the same thing. That’s kind of where I light up today. I enjoy that way more than what I already do. Don’t get me wrong, we intend to keep doing all those things, it’s just I enjoyed helping someone else get their first hundred thousand dollars in private capital, or get their first department building, or even just do their first deal and get started. That is way more fun for me today.

Zephan: And I found that to be a pretty common theme with everyone who is what I would say is both successful and happy, is that they’re giving their time back to others. That is something that was really important for me just in starting this podcast. What I realized is that I had spent all of 2014 on a search for myself. And I don’t think it’s a selfish thing to do, I think it’s an important thing to do, but when I realized that I wanted to start this podcast, it was kind of like right in front of me, and I couldn’t quite tell what it was, because I had this search for what I wanted and what my meaning was. And then it was like “Well, wait a minute. What if I shred a hundred other people’s stories about how they did it, and how they got there? Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do. Maybe it’s not really about me it’s about sharing with others and opening up to others.” And so I think that that has really been a common theme of what everyone should do in life, whether they’re stuck, whether they’re working a job they don’t like. Or maybe they picked up model planes as a hobby, and they got bored! I think that they need to try something that lets them get back to others.

So along those lines, what advice do you have for someone who maybe, either A, is in a job, or B, doesn’t have a job and needs to figure out something to do. Maybe they’re at that point of, you know, bank account’s pretty much run out or maybe they’re at that point of emotional and mental bank account has run out because they don’t enjoy what they’re doing. What advice do you have for them? Or what steps should they take to kind of dig out of that hole?

J.: Well, I—having had the fortune now to hang out with some notable individuals, I’ll just tell you many things that they’ve said and that I agree with a lot. Many real estate people understand the name Ken McElroy, you know, even Robert Kiyosaki, and I just know that at the end of the day, having been able to be an influence and spend time with those individuals has made a significant difference on perspective. But for every business person, sales cures all ills. Period. Go sell something. Now I just said a four letter word to some people. “I don’t want to sell.” Okay, well…then don’t even try to be in business because there’s no avoiding it. Because I get this all the time “J., I just want to do real estate!” “Ok, cool! Learn to sell.” “I don’t want to sell!” “Well then don’t do real estate.” “But it’s about the building!” “No, it’s about selling, you don’t understand.” “Well, all I want to do is buy and hold.” “That’s wonderful. Guess what, you’re selling the same building to the same person every thirty days.” You gotta sell. And you gotta understand that as you go into it.

For most people, there’s what I call the path to becoming. And it starts with desire. Once you have that desire, the next thing you should do is learn to invest your time different. So I t goes from desire, then to time. What you should be investing your time into is gaining new skills or talents. Once you begin to gain those new skills or talents, this is where the magic begins to happen, is because you get into knew relationships. Those new relationships open up doors of opportunity that you haven’t even begun to try to imagine or consider. In fact, I would dare say you’re afraid to consider what would actually happen if you did. And then once you’ve established—here’s the next step—credit and or credibility with those new relationships, you then get to the next step which is cash. Meaning you now have a product or service, usually, by that point, that you could sell to other people, people who would buy from you so that you have a business that can grow. And once you get to the stage of cash, then you get to the cash flow, how to set things up with systems and automation so that you have to ability to do, you know, still deliver the product or service without you being personally involved.

Then and only then do you get to step number eight, which most people are chasing today, is significance. And then you can begin to do those other things. If you want to free Willie, then great, you have the time to free Willie and hug as many trees as you want and save all of the orphans on the planet because you’ve taken care and become all of the things that you need to become in order—whatever that is for each and every person. No matter where you are, emotionally bankrupt or financially, or you’re feeling stressed. That’s the path you’re on somewhere in there, and you just gotta figure out where you are and what that next step is.

Zephan: Cool—we just got some feedback there just before number eight, the last step there.

J.: Significance?

Zephan: Yeah, it’s a little fuzzy when you talk. Maybe try unplugging and plugging back in real quick? For your—

J.: The microphone?

Zephan: Yeah.

J.: One—oh, one, two—can you—hello—oh that’s not working that’s the wrong microphone.

Zephan: Yeah for some reason it got like really fuzzy.

J.: Okay….is that better?

Zephan: Yeah, yeah.

J.: Albright… I didn’t do anything.

Zephan: No worries, it could’ve been interference or whatever. Real quick, let’s just jump back to that last step, step number eight.

J.: Okay, so, what happens is that as you’re going through that process, you’re not at the final step. Again, most people are trying to get to that step as quickly as humanly possible and often times out of order—is step number eight being all about significance. This is the—this is where—notable individuals who are at that step and individuals like Oprah. She’s someone of significance, where just being around her or knowing, being inspired by here, all these things. She affects change in certain ways because she has the time and the ability and the resources to be able to affect change. And once you begin to become that person, that’s a great feeling and a good thing to be.

That’s one of the reasons that I like real estate, because even at a small level, we’re providing clean, safe, affordable housing and jobs to people. And when you do it, especially with apartment buildings, you begin to change zip codes and neighborhoods. And that’s really cool to me. Start with something that’s broken, fix it, come back, see the jobs vibrant and working—it’s just like, “Wow. We did that.” And that started with an idea and a whole lot of hard work, and a great team. But that’s what an entrepreneur has the ability to do. Eventually become someone of significance.

Zephan: And that’s really how it all starts, is just one idea and a lot of hard work going behind it. And I think that—I don’t think there’s any real numbers to measure this, but you know a lot of people say that some people get so close to where they need to be and they give up. They give up too soon. Whether it’s thirty seconds before something happens or thirty days before something happens, and they’re like right there on the verge of finding that success. And it really just means going back to that idea that you originally had and saying “This is what I told myself I was going to do and I’m going to see it all the way through.”

So clearly you are in a much better place now. You’ve learned a lot of things over time. What would you say if you could just go back to yourself maybe ten, fifteen years ago—is there any just one particular thing where you would say…you know, whether it’s like “Hey don’t go out and play sports, cause you’re gonna puncture a lung!” or is it just like…you know “Make sure you work hard and never give up.” What would you want to tell your younger self?

J.: Whoo…crazy question, love it! Alright, so…uhm…and I think this applies for everybody, at the end of the day, I actually wouldn’t change what has happened. Because what has happened has been the foundation of what I get to do today. And I love what I get to do today. Friends ask me “Hey what would you do if you could do this? What thing are you working towards being able to do?” I’m like “I’m already doing it. This it. Boohoo!” Therefore, what I would say, is I would say to fail faster, fail more frequently, and fail forward. You gotta fail fast, fail forward, and fail frequent. And I would’ve told myself to do that. Because growing up, you get afraid of making mistakes. You know, you get your hand slapped if you—you know, in school, if you try to get help, they call it cheating and you’re like “No! I just don’t understand! Help me!” and I would’ve learned some of those lessons sooner. Learn how to vet and trust people. So again, just part of failing fast, you gotta fail through building relationships. You gotta fail forward to building—through building teams and learning how to fail is so critical to your success. I mean, you’ve heard it said before, but the way to success is only through failure. It’s not around failure, it’s not under failure, it’s not over failure. It’s straight through. And nobody likes that message—not even me!—but it’s the truth at the end of the day. You don’t learn anything without failing at it first.

Zephan: Absolutely. It’s—I think that life is kind of like this constant state of failing and success and whatever fail we do have leads to a different success. So like, you start one business, it doesn’t really work out, but you found this other business, so really, you didn’t fail because you got to where you eventually needed to be. And there’s a great Steve J.obs quote about you can only connect the dots looking back, you can’t connect the dots looking forward and make sense of it. And he was really right. There’s no way to say that whatever decision I’m about to make, whatever fear I’m about to go up against, no one’s going to say it’s a hundred percent guaranteed safe bet. That’s just kind of how it is. And unless you actually try, there’s no way you’re going to find out what’s on the other side, except for going through.

So, you’ve answered some really great questions here today, I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day. uhm, get me up to speed just about where you are right now, how the business is doing, and what the best way is for people to stay in touch with you, or find out more?

J.: Sure, sure. At the moment, we’re still—as you hinted at earlier—we’re in the process of continuing the building with the resort, we’re moving tenants in, we’re doing what real estate people do. We’re deal with the ups as well as the downs, because you got both of them, and we’re continuing to make steady progress and real estate investors do. We’re teaching new people how to get started and having—they’re having various levels of success as well to raise capital and we’re running our own little mastermind groups and all this other stuff, but…the best thing to do—I mean there’s just been so much that we’ve created and done, we’re just trying to do our best to get it all out there as quickly as humanly possible.

If you want to meet more great entrepreneurs, obviously our podcast is there and that’s just at Very simple to get to, and the way you can listen. We have hundreds of episodes from many different entrepreneurs all across the globe.

And if—you know, one of the things that I’ve become known for is helping people learn how to actually raise capital. Because that’s one of the things, actually, most entrepreneurs say, “If I just had the money, then I would finally have ladaladalda—” Okay cool, well here is an absolutely one hundred percent free tool that I created. I call it the Profit Analysis Quadrant, PAQ for short, and many people have been able to use it. I’ve seen many people use it to raise millions of dollars for their own ventures, whether it’s real estate, music, movies, it doesn’t matter. It works all the time. You can go to Money tool. That’s how I look at it, it’s a tool that helps you get some money. And…then hopefully you can learn to deploy that in the marketplace to go create some more jobs. Please. Because that’s what we have a shortage of, is entrepreneurs, and if there’s anything here that’s been shared that has helped you do jump over that hoop and actually become that entrepreneur, then I’ve done my job today.

Zephan: Awesome, well thank you so much for spending some time with us today. I really appreciate it. You truly have an amazing story. Thank you for sharing that as well. And congratulations on where you are right now, clearly with no punctured lungs at the moment. So let’s knock on wood, fingers crossed, that everybody stays healthy and it’s been so great speaking with you. So thank you.

J.: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Zephan: Alright, we’ll see everyone next time on our next episode of the Year of Purpose podcast. Don’t forget, we do have show notes and a full transcript on our website at And you can find links in the show notes to the things that we talked about in today’s episode. Alright, guys. See you next time.