Businessman and Life Coach, Aaron T. Walker, has inspired many through his leadership, mentorship, and consistent pursuit of excellence. He enjoys helping others and believes experience is a great teacher. 35 years of entrepreneurship and marriage have given Aaron a wealth of experience. Aaron continues to reach new heights and broaden his perspective of the terrain by examining his experiences and growing from them.
Pursuit of Excellence:
For 19 years and counting, Aaron has taken classes from and has been coached personally by his friend, financial guru, Dave Ramsey. Spiritual mentors David Landrith and Bob Warren have impacted his spiritual life beyond measure. Two other disciplined mastermind groups, 48 Days led by friend Dan Miller and The Torch have played a role in his understanding of how to live a significant, successful life. Aaron incorporates education and learning opportunities into his daily routine, remaining informed of the latest tools and trends available.
It only took a few years as a partner with David Patton Construction LLC for Aaron to help take the business from doing one to two projects per year to a multi-million dollar company, voted number one builder for three consecutive years by Nashville’s House & Home & Garden Magazine’s People’s Choice Awards. He sold his retail business to Cash America USA, a Fortune 500 company. In addition to being the owner of eight lucrative businesses, Aaron participates in civic endeavors.
Through his participation in personal accountability groups, Aaron mentors 11 individuals weekly now and has for over five years. The Eagles Group, a collection of Nashville’s most respected leaders met weekly for over a decade. At his local church, Aaron is an active member, team leader, Deacon, and teacher.
“At 18 you worry about what everyone thinks of you. At 40 you don’t care.
At 60 you realise no one was thinking about you anyway!”
― Daniel G. Amen
Zephan: Hey, Year of Purpose tribe, Zephan Blaxberg here, back again, and today, I’m joined by a business man and life coach, Aaron T. Walker. Now, Aaron has inspired many through his leadership and mentorship and persistent pursuit of excellence. He enjoyed helping others and believes experience is a great teacher. Thirty-five years of entrepreneurship and marriage has given Aaron a wealth of experience. Aaron continues to reach new heights and broaden his perspective of the terrain by examining his experiences and growing from them.
Aaron, thanks so much for being here today.
Aaron: Thanks, Zephan. Man, thanks for having me on your show.
Zephan: Absolutely. So it’s a great pleasure to be here with you. You know, I looked at your website and some of the videos of great things that people have been saying about you. You know, you were on the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast with John Lee Dumas and he really had nothing but great things to say about you, so I’m excited to chat with you today.
Aaron: Well, I appreciate that. He was kind enough to invite me back for the second time, and I got a little treat not long ago. We were in San Diego together, actually, and I discovered he put me at number four in his top ten. And so we had an exciting time out there on the Midway, this aircraft carrier. There was this little gathering for the Social Media Examiner we were on, so I was delighted to find that out when I was out there.
Zephan: Very cool.
Aaron: Thank you very much.
Zephan: Definitely makes the trip out there worth it.
Aaron: Yeah, it was fun! It was a good time.
Zephan: Yeah, so, let’s kind of jump right in. you know, let’s talk about identity, because this is something that you know a lot about and I’ve had quite some experience lately where, through being in relationships, being in jobs, being in certain places, you kind of lose your identity of who you are. So, you know, I—for example—after getting out of a two year relationship, you kind of lose who you are in that relationship and then you almost have to rediscover yourself afterwards. So maybe could you talk about a little bit of solidifying our identity and really figuring out who we are as a person—excluding external factors?
Aaron: Yeah, it’s hard to do that, because we all want to include the external factors into our identity. And a lot of the times, if we tie ourselves up in the relationship with a person, and that person goes away, we feel like part of our identity is gone. Or if we have a job and we either change jobs or get fired—I hope that’s not the case if we get fired—we lose our identity there because we tie—you know, Zephan, when guys meet each other, the first question’s “Hey, what’s your name?” Second question’s “What do you do?” When women meet each other, the first question is “What is your name?” Second question is “Tell me about your family.” And see, we tie our identities up in different things.
Well, men, invariably want to have a high position. We want to be admired by our peers, and so we tie our identity up in what we do. And I’m a man of faith, I’m a Christ follower, and so my identity is tied up in my faith in Jesus Christ. And it’s not in the external factors, it’s not in my job, it’s not in being codependent. It’s not in tangible possessions. And a lot of us get caught up in that. We have the nice house or the big car or the nice job, the corporate gig or we’re an entrepreneur on multiple businesses, and when some of that stuff goes away, we feel like we lost our identity.
A client of mine recently—I was coaching through the sale of his business, and he just couldn’t let go of it. Twenty-six years he’d owned this business and he wanted to transition to succession plan and transfer it to his son. Well, did son didn’t want it. His son just like, “Dad, this is not what I want to do.” And he was devastated, and he had agonized over this for a couple of years. And I asked him one day why it meant so much for him to transfer the business to his son. And he said “Well, I’ve built my whole life and my career around this and my legacy will be gone.” And I said “Are you serious?” And he said “Now my legacy will be over if my son doesn’t take this business.”
And I said “Your whole identity is tied up in this company.” And I said “You id—this is a piece of who you are. This is not who you are.” And it really relieved him of that tension once we talked through it. And I just want to help even your listeners to realize that your identity has nothing to do with the external factors.
Zephan: Yeah, it’s, uh—it’s even something struggled with when I was younger. I had been diagnosed when I was about thirteen with bipolar manic depression, an anxiety disorder, a learning disability—I mean, you name it, there was like a whole laundry list. And even I had to learn many years later it’s just a label. It’s not necessarily who you are because most people who meet me on the street now would say “There’s no way that you had a panic disorder” or “No way that you could have been diagnosed as bipolar.”
Aaron: Yeah, you look pretty relaxed to me, so I would say the same!
Zephan: Most of the time, yeah.
Aaron: You’re discovering who you are, that’s why.
Zephan: It’s just a label. So it’s really something that I think everybody should kind of sit back and think about for a moment and say “This is not who I am. This is a little part.” And at the end of the day, if it’s someone else that labeled you that, it’s only up to you to accept whether or not that’s the truth. That’s the whole self-fulfilling prophecy type thing.
So do you have any sort of tips or tools of if someone does notice that they’ve lost themselves in—whether it’s a certain event, a certain relationship, or a certain business—you know, are there a couple things where they can kind of step back and pull out of that and say “This is not me, this is not who I am”?
Aaron: Well, if that were the case, every situation would mean that you were nothing before. And so ask yourself “Before I met this person, before I got this job, who was I?” and if you can answer that question, then you’ll realize that what you got now is not who you are. And it’s just stepping back and evaluating and not being codependent and not tying your identity up into a—it’s very simple. It’s just nothing that we do, nothing that we associate ourselves with have any variable or any dependency whatsoever on your identity. And so just discover who you are.
Zephan: Yeah. It—and that’s something that I think a lot of people, if they’re not already doing it, it’s something that they want to do. To find meaning and to find out who there are. Do you have any insight on why we as humans are searching for meaning? I feel like it’s such a big topic lately, at least over the last ten or so years, it’s growing. Do you have any insight on why that is?
Aaron: Yeah, I think we all want to have meaning and purpose in our lives. And I think we—you know, Maslow, back in the 50s and the 60s, was talking about the basic needs that we need and then we go up through the pyramid and then we get to a point where we kind of discover who we are and what we want to accomplish and what we want to do. And we want to grow. There has to be meaning, there has to be success, there has to be significance in our life.
And, you know, I kind of when through that journey early on. I started pretty early in my career at eighteen, owning my own business and then at twenty-seven selling out to a Fortune 500 company. And then I kind laid around, played golf, thought I was living the good life. And I gained fifty pounds in that process. I was bored. I was getting into bed in the middle of the day—I was depressed. And people say “How can you be depressed? Twenty-seven years old, you got plenty of money. You got your own schedule.” But I had no significance in my life. I had no purpose, I had no meaning, I had no reason to get up each and every day because it was all about myself, so I was looking inward cause it was all about me.
Then I—fast forward, you know, I bought another business. I had meaning again and purpose because I had something to do that seemed significant. Ten years later, I had an automobile accident. Pedestrian was crossing the street to catch a bus. He didn’t see me, and he didn’t make it. Three days later, he died in the Vanderbilt trauma unit, and it radically changed my paradigm. It radically made me think “That could happen to me at any moment” and “What am I gonna do about it? How am I gonna change my life from success only”—and that’s what I was focused on, acquiring another store, making another dollar, getting another toy, getting a bigger house—all my identity was tied up in these possessions. And then I thought, that could be taken away instantaneously. And if that were the case, is that really who I was?
And so I took off about five years. Traveled around, built a new house, kind of gathered my thoughts. Went back in the construction business for about ten years and we built high-end residence and small commercial, you know, and I had then what I felt like was a purpose again. It was providing a service, we were doing something for others. And that had meaning.
And then I retired a few years ago when I was fifty and started View from the Top, and I’m helping people understand that those possessions that we acquire only fulfill and gratify momentarily. It’s not lasting. And you say, “Well I’d like to experience it for a while.” And they’re nice—I don’t want to take away from what things do—but happiness is a choice, not a trait. And we’ve got to be content in whatever situation we’re in and have meaning and have success and significance in our life. So when you try to identify who you are, if you tie it to anything other than who you are as an individual, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed, long-term.
Zephan: You brought out two really good points there. The first one is that, you know, money and happiness—they’re not tied together. So I was actually—
Aaron: We tie them together though. We—
Zephan: Right, that’s the problem. We make the mistake of tying them together. and I actually, uhm—you know, I saw some research a few years back, maybe about five years ago, where they said the number of how much money to make for a year where your happiness doesn’t increase was something along the lines of like $250,000. Like, after that point, there is nothing else that you could afford that could change your experiences, your happiness. But now, I actually talked to someone the other day, and she told me it’s now down to like $34,000 or something like that. That happiness no longer is affected by having more money.
Aaron: Well, there’s basic needs, right. You gotta have the roof and you gotta have the food and you gotta have the transportation—and that really makes you happy when you can get to that point, but over and above that, I think the statistics are correct. I think that the measurable amount of happiness that is bestows upon you is nominal. And it lasts—it’s temporal. You get it and you go “Is this it?”
See, here’s the other thing. And a lot of your listeners may say—because they’re not in a position where they’ve got all the things that they want—they say “That’s easy for you to say because you’ve got it” and what I can’t stand is for people who have money to say “it’s not important.” Run from those people. Because it is important, but don’t make it your god. Don’t make it your primary focus. Don’t make it your primary aim to just get the money. Because you will be sorely disappointed if you do that.
It’s what are you gonna do with the money and how are you gonna use it to have purpose and meaning in other people’s lives? How are you gonna help your family go forward? Just don’t let it control you. That’s the only thing that I try to teach people. Get it. I like to make it, too. Even today, I still enjoy making money. But what is it that I’m gonna do with it that’s gonna further the family tree? That’s gonna help others? That’s gonna instill values in other people that they can take this money and go out and be a blessing to others. And what are we gonna do with it is my question now.
And I have some documents that I’ve written. One of them is a personal assessment, and it talks—you know what I’ll even do, Zephan. I’ll make these documents available to your audience. I’ve created a landing page.
Zephan: That’d be great.
Aaron: And so we’ll give these away. I won’t even charge for them. One of them is a personal assessment to where you answer very difficult questions about yourself. You talk about your identity, your ideals, your relationships. We talk about things in your career, your faith—you really dive deep and answer the questions.
And there’s a second document called “What do I want?” and most people, Zephan, don’t even know what they want. You say “If you could get up tomorrow, there were no geographic limitations, there were no financial constraints, what would you do with your day tomorrow?” Most people don’t even know. How do you want to live your life on purpose, intentionally? And there’s thirty questions on that document. And then there’s another one called “Steps to a Productive Day.” and it’s how to implement what you want and to live a life on purpose.
So just go to that landing page, viewfromthetop.com/yearofpurpose.
Zephan: Perfect, viewfromthetop.com/yearofpurpose.
Aaron: Yeah, /yearofpurpose, and I’ll make all three of those available for free and you can download those and discover who you are yourself.
Zephan: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that with us.
Aaron: Sure, oh absolutely.
Zephan: And you actually—you said something else that kind of caught my attention back there. Cause this was a conversation that I had with someone, actually last night, was that you were able to move around businesses. So many people go to college, get this degree, and think that’s the topic that they stay with for the rest of their life.
I’ve held everything from being a maintenance worker at a summer camp, driving around a little stick shift tractor, to being a pastry chef in a bakery, to working for Apple and Panera and a couple of different chains, to press photographer, which I actually got fired from because that was back when I never knew how to use a camera—so I talked my way into that job, and when I got fired, I realized “Okay, I still really want to learn this stuff” so I just taught myself and got better—to being a first responder for a recreation center in college.
So the truth is you can really move around and so many people are just convinced that, you know, they just gotta stay stuck with this one thing.
Aaron: Yeah. Man, I don’t believe that at all. I’ll tell you a little bit of my backstory. You know, when I was a nine year old young man, I started a lawn care business. And I cut the church’s property, my next-door neighbor’s property, my property. When and bought a lawn mower at Western Auto, paid three hundred dollars for it when I was nine or ten years old. Then went to work for a little store stocking the shelves at eleven years old. At thirteen years old, went to work for a pawn shop.
At fifteen, I decided I was gonna go into that business. At fifteen years old, I decided I wanted to be in the pawn shop business. Course, I’m sure my peers were laughing at me. And I went to summer school and night school for two years. I had enough credits to graduate high school in the tenth grade. I didn’t even have to go my Junior and Senior year. I went one class my junior year to compete in selling and DECA, and then, my senior year, I went twice, to register and to graduate. And so at eighteen, I invited myself to be a partner with two wealthy guys in our community and they took me up on it, and then at twenty-seven, sold out and I’ve told you the rest of the story.
So my point is you’ve got to make your opportunity. You know, it’s not gonna come knocking on your door. I didn’t even go to college. People say “How did you become successful?” Well, through grit, perseverance, determination, and “Can’t couldn’t do it, and could did it all” kind of mentality, you know. My mom would never allowed me to say can’t. She’d say “You’d might not do it, but you’re gonna try!” So I would try and I’d gain self-esteem as a result of that. I had confidence that I could do something.
And so I tell everybody, I make up for the lack of education with grit and determination. If you really want to do something bad enough, you’ll figure out a way. And you’ll invest the time, the effort, the energy, the resources to do what your lifelong dream is. And if it’s college, go to college and get an education. I don’t like college, I love education, I read—you know, I read three or four hours a day. I teach myself a lot and I have a lot of coaches and mentors. I go to a lot of seminars and conferences and I’m all about education. But you don’t have to do it the conventional way. You don’t have to go to the institution for four years and get this and that—that’s good if you do. That’s great, but you don’t have to do it that way. So you can do it the other way and get hugely successful.
Zephan: Yeah, and I can definitely relate to your story, because I actually did something similar when I was in high school. I took college courses so that I could graduate college early. So going into college, I was pretty much on a three year track instead of four years.
And I got through my third year and I decided I wanted to do a feature film, I wanted to do something that no one had done before. And we went to the department head, and basically he was gonna give us course credit for this, but he said “You’ve got to get a professor to sign off on it.” And we went to everyone in the department, we’re like “We have this hundred and eighteen page script and in a year, we want to make this into a movie.” And pretty much half of them either laughed us out of their offices and the other half were just like “No. it’s not gonna happen.”
And we finally got the last person—the last professor in the department, and I said “Look, how about this—you know that I did all the work to try and graduate a year early. If I don’t get this done, you can fail me, and you can force me back into your classes for another year and I will stay on the four year plan instead.” And sure enough, through, just like you said, grit and determination, from January of 2010 to December of 2010, we took a hundred and eighteen page script and we turned it into a ninety-six minute long feature film and premiered it in front of a sold out crowd in a movie theater.
Aaron: Wow, way to go! That’s awesome! Don’t you love that? Don’t you love grit and determination? I love it when I’m right too. Don’t you go say, “Hey I told I can do it. You know, I’ve got it in my and I persevered and I was determined and it paid off.”
You know what, sometimes it doesn’t pay off. And what do we do then, right? A lot of people, the reason they don’t succeed, is they’re afraid of failure. They’re afraid that they’re gonna fall. And so if they stay in the background and they don’t do it, then they don’t fail. But here’s what I tell people, and I told my daughters this when I was raising my children, is that—fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure. I couldn’t lay in bed at night, Zephan, and think “Could I have done it? What would have happened? What would the possibilities be?”
And I tell everybody, there’s this little thing, it’s the 18/40/65 Rule. And here’s what it is: When you’re eighteen, you think everybody’s talking about you. “Zephan’s gonna fail,” you know, that’s what you’re thinking. “He’s not gonna do it. What is that moron trying to do? He’s not gonna do that.” that’s what you’re thinking. And then when you hit forty, you just don’t care. You just say “I don’t even care anymore.” And then when you get sixty or sixty-five, you find out they weren’t talking about you to being with! I promise you, people are not out there talking about you. They’re not out there saying you are or you’re not.
But it keeps people stuck. It keeps them in a place to where they think that if they say it and they try it and it doesn’t work, they’re embarrassed. They’re shameful. It didn’t work. And see, to me, failure is in not trying, not in not succeeding. See, success is good, but the failure, to me, is sitting on the sideline and not trying. And when you do fail, it’s just one more way that you found out that it’s not gonna work, right, so then we go to the next thing until you do succeed.
Zephan: Yeah, it goes back to Edison and the lightbulb.
Aaron: That’s it, ten thousand times, you know. I’m glad he persevered, because as a result of it, we can see each other.
Aaron: So I’m—I’m just fearful of missing an opportunity, right. So go out there and make your own way. If there’s not a door, they say create one. So I want to go down a place and create my own path, not a beaten down trail where everybody else has been. And all these analogies, you know, the point is go for it. People are not talking about you as much as you think. So go for it.
Zephan: Yeah, and that’s the only way that we break records. Somebody when out there and said “There has to be a way to do this” and everyone told them that there was no way to do it, and then they did it. And that wouldn’t have happened unless they started trying.
Aaron: Here’s another little thing that I would suggest to your audience and guys that are twenty/twenty-five, thirty/thirty-five years old. If you haven’t read this book, you need to. It will radically change your life. It’s called Essentialism.
Aaron: Greg McKeown wrote the book. People think that I’m getting something out of promoting this book, I’m gonna contact Greg and tell him to send me a dollar because I’m his best salesman. And I read a lot. I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books, and you can do on my website and download some of my suggestions. But the point of this book is deciding between the non-essentials and the vital few. Okay, and here’s what we do. We think that we can do everything, and we want to do these fifteen tasks. The truth of the matter is we can only do two or three really proficient. We can only be really, really good at a couple of things.
And that’s where I’ve been able to kind of harness the power of focus. I’m not the smartest tack in the box, I realize that, but I will outwork you. I will be determined and I don’t want to be an inch deep and a mile wide and try to do everything, but I do want to be an inch wide and a mile deep. I want to know the product, I want to know the customer, I want to intentionally focus. I want to set blocks of time that I work on things. People talk about “I’m a multitasker,” well, no you’re not. Because multitasking is a farce. You cannot think of but one thing at a time. You’re just putting off what you really could be doing if you would focus intently.
So chose two or three things that you really enjoy in your professions and go deep into it and quit trying to spend all your energy in being an inch deep and a mile wide. So just go the other way.
Zephan: I really like that a lot. Let me ask you this, cause this is something that came up for me when I was thinking about what we were just saying was does grit and determination—is this—do you think this is something that we are born with? Because a lot of people clearly have it and just go after everything. That’s most of the stuff that I do is I just go after it and I don’t really question it, but a lot of people get stuck behind fear or questioning before they even get started and some of them get so paralyzed that they don’t even start. Is this—a, is this something that we’re born with, and, b, how can we get there if we feel like we don’t have that sort of grit and determination at this point in time?
Aaron: Most people don’t have clarity. And the way that I’ve been able to get clarity is I have surrounded myself with mastermind groups, accountability partners. Most people don’t want to subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny. Most people say “This is my idea, it’s my thing, it’s what I want to do,” well what if it’s a bad idea and you don’t have trusted advisors that are non-biased that can speak into your life and say “Zephan, that’s sounds okay, and if you want to do that, that’s good, but experience teaches us, historically, that that idea’s not gonna work.” and if you have a general consensus of eight or ten people that are successful in whatever arena that it is you’re discovering, you might want to take a look at it.
But a lot of people wanna go out there and do startups, and that’s okay. And I’m all for startups and there’s a big difference in being an entrepreneur and running a business or job and a startup. So that’s for another day, we’ll discuss that. But the point is, is we doing want to subject ourselves to that scrutiny. And I’ve been willing to do that.
I’ve gone to guys—recently, there was business deal I was gonna do. Man, I thought it was a great idea. Seriously, I thought “Man, this the bomb, this is gonna work.” So I went to twelve guys that I trust and I ran it up the flagpole, told them everything that I wanted to do. Eleven of the twelve told me not to do it. One of the guys said “I’ll lay down in front of your truck and keep you from driving there.” he said “You’re gonna drive off a cliff if you do this idea.” Well, see, if I had not had those trusted advisors, I would have done the deal, it probably would have cost me friendships, some really good relationships and probably a lot of money.
And so, I listen to people. I go before it. So I’ve been in the mastermind groups for over two decades now. I’ve had accountability partners for twenty/twenty-five years that we meet regularly and I pour my life into—they pour their life into me, we’re candid, we’re honest, we say—we’re vulnerable, we’re transparent. It’s the—I hate facades. People say “I’ve got it figured out,” well, we’re all knuckleheads. We’re all out here trying to figure it out.
We need people speaking into our lives that will tell us that truth, and if you’re not willing to be transparent and honest, people can’t help you. And so I would just say get with a group of people you trust—you call it a mastermind, you call it accountability—whatever you want to call it—but meet regularly. I’ve done this every week, and I even have multiple groups, every week, for over two decades.
And so some of my mastermind groups that I started with back in 1995, you might or might not know some of the participants in it. Dan Miller, 48 Days to the Work You Love, is one of the guys. Ken Abraham—he’s got a hundred books in print. He’s a New York Times bestselling author. Dave Ramsey, one of my best friends. Dave’s in the group, and actually it was his group. He invited me in. but this has been, you know, decades ago. So we have met on an ongoing basis and pour ourselves into each other, and that’s just what you need to help you get that grit, determination.
You asked the question can it be learned or are you born with it? I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer that question. I would say that you can learn that. To say that you can’t muster up enough courage to have grit and determination, I think would be inaccurate. That’s like saying “Can you learn leadership or are you born with it?” I don’t know the answer that either, but I think, quite honestly, that if you want something bad enough, I think you can muster up the grit and determination.
Zephan: Yeah, and I completely agree with that. I’ve always said that you’ll make an excuse and find a reason not to do it, or if you want it bad enough, then you’ll make it happen. And it’s one of those things where, yeah, there are going to be a lot of people that tell you it’s impossible and that you can’t achieve it, and the biggest thing to remember is that that’s coming from their own insecurities—
Aaron: Their own biased. What that means is just they can’t do it.
Aaron: That’s what they’re saying. They’re saying “I can’t do this.” And I’ll just tell you, that’s like crickets to me. I don’t listen to that stuff. I just don’t. Because people say—well, I’ll give you an example, and you pointed it out a while ago. I just sit and told my story and sent it to John Lee Dumas—course, there’s only three hundred and something people a year on there and there’s seven billion people on the planet. And the odds are, what are the odds of me getting on there, right? One in, you know, seven billion.
And I’m like “You know what, there’s 365 people get on there. Why can’t one of them be me?” and so I reached out. The same way I’ve gotten on a lot of podcast interviews, the same reason a lot of doors have opened, because I’ve asked. And people are scared of rejection. They’re scared of “No.” and my response to that is, “The answer’s always No unless you ask.” You have no opportunity of the answer being yes, unless you ask. It’s not gonna come to you, you got to go to it. And so, just don’t be afraid. Get the fear out of your life and go after it and make the, uh—make it, you know, something that you want to do and muster up the grit and determination.
Zephan: Yeah. It’s—words of wisdom right there. I mean, that’s the way that we really should be living our lives. And this is not something that happens overnight, right. Like you don’t just go to sleep and wake up tomorrow morning and say “Alright, I’m gonna do this.” But it’s a process.
Aaron: What would’ve been the chances—what would’ve been the chances of those two wealthy guys asking me, an eighteen year old guy right out of high school, to go into business with them? Zero! They wouldn’t do that.
See the point is, now I want to also say, is the people that do extra, the people that really stand out, the people that have grit, determination, perseverance—business people with money are looking for you, right. Because they got plenty money. The shortage is in the people, not in the money. There’s more money out there to do deals. The shortage is with people with that attitude, grit, determination. I’m looking for people like that! There’s opportunity but we’re afraid to ask. And they’re not gonna come and find you. You need to go and find them. You need to seek it out.
Those guys could have easily told me no. they could have said “No, I’m not gonna do it.” Well, that wouldn’t have stopped me. I would have asked somebody else. Because I come from a family that was very poor. We didn’t have anything. My dad never made anything over fifteen thousand dollars a year in his life. We life in an eight hundred square foot house, four children—I know all about being poor, so people can’t say “Well, you had the opportunity.” No I didn’t. I made the opportunity. I went out there and invested the time, the energy.
The other thing that people are not willing, today, is to delay gratification. See that’s the big thing. People today want it instantaneous. We pulled up the McDonald’s window and if it’s over thirty-five seconds getting your hamburger, you’re all irritable—it’s like “why isn’t is within the twenty-five seconds they promised?” Like, seriously? Well, we do the same thing in business. We want it instantly, we want what our parents have at fifty-five or sixty years old. You’re twenty-five. You’re twenty. You’re not sixty. You’re not sixty-five. Those guys have got four decades behind them to provide that nice home, the bigger car, the bigger vacation.
Robin and I, when we started our business—I’ve been married thirty-five years this June, and we got married two weeks out of high school. And after we started our business, we took an eighteen thousand dollar a year salary—you listening to what I’m fixing to tell you?—for ten years.
Aaron: We took an eighteen thousand dollar a year salary. We could have lived in a three times bigger house, drove much nicer cars, but I wouldn’t have built a business that a Fortune 500 company would’ve wanted if I took all the money early on because I bought the second store, the third store, the fourth store—you get the picture. We delayed gratification. There was a payday. It was a decade later, but see, today, people want to have the nicer car, the bigger house, the shiny objects—today. They’re not willing to postpone gratification.
And so, if you can learn that, if you can learn to delay the gratification until later, the payday will come.
Zephan: It’s very similar to sitting in traffic. You know, I’m in Maryland so I drive into D.C. a lot, and, as many people know, D.C. drivers have been rated consistently as the worst drivers in the entire country.
Aaron: I was just up there. Yeah, I’ll agree with that.
Zephan: Yeah, and so sitting at a green light somewhere at a red light sometimes, it’s almost like they’ll honk at you before the light even turns green because they’re so ready to go and so revved up and everybody just wants to move, move, move and they never get to sit back and relax and just kind of enjoy the show. I feel like, if your life is a movie, why not sit there and enjoy it and eat some popcorn. You know, why are you trying to fast-forward through it to get to the credits?
Aaron: Yeah. Well, here’s—I don’t remember the author, but I read a good book, it’s been a number of years ago, called Enjoy the Now. And the point is, is that Zephan and I should be enjoying this conversation, right now, today. Not thinking about this afternoon, not thinking about an hour from now, but let’s engage in this conversation right now. And the people that do that in business will get much further. Have you ever gone to lunch with somebody and they keep noticing the people walking in the door or the people walking by—they’re interested in everything but the conversation.
And in coaching, I’ve had people tell me “You’re really engaged.” And I say “Well, you’re paying, first of all. Second of all, I’m really interested. And if I’m waiting to talk, I’m gonna miss something.” So stop waiting to talk. You’ll get your turn, listen to what the other people are saying. Engage in really what’s going on and listen to the people, and you’ll enjoy your life even much more.
So same way in business, you know, give value to the customer, and the money will come. If you start out with the money in mind, you’ll never get the value and your business won’t grow. So always under promise, over preform. Always leave a little something extra for the client. Engage, give them more value than they’re paying for. And as a result of that, people will stand in line to hand you money, because it’s so abstract now in today’s society that we live in. I’m all about customer service, 100%, because that’s where I feel like the businesses are made or they fail. And you’ve got to provide excellent customer service and you’ve got to give more value than they’re paying for.
Zephan: And if you take care of other people, they certainly do take care of you. I mean, this isn’t only about being selfless, we’re talking about what to do with your money, what money you do have, and the truth is, give it back. Pay it out to the community. I’m not saying give it ALL away, you know, you’ve got your expenses and your food and things.
One thing that I’ve found to be one of the most rewarding things I ever do is volunteer with the local youth group. And that’s my time, and that’s my money, and it means the world to me to know that I’m impacting younger high-schoolers who are exactly where I was not even ten years ago. And it’s really great to see that change in the world, and this is our future. So it’s really nice to give back when you do have that money. And it’ll help you find much more meaning and purpose in life.
Aaron: Yeah, that’s the whole thing, isn’t it? Don’t we want to provide purpose? Don’t we want to provide meaning? Don’t we want to assist those that are around us? Gary Vaynerchuck wrote a book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook—
Zephan: I have it on my shelf right there.
Aaron: Okay, and for those that don’t know, it’s a boxing analogy. Give, give, give, and then ask. And I teach this to people every day. What we do though, invariably, is we go to somebody and we ask. People ask me all the time because they know I have relationships with certain people. They’ll say “Hey, get me in—do this” and I’m like “Seriously? I never even hear from you. We don’t even talk.”
And I teach guys, they say “what are some of the things you’ve done that have proven to be highly successful in your business?” and I’m all about relationships. See, it’s not all about what I can get out of the relationship, it’s what can I bring to the relationship. Like, for Zephan, what can I do to help you? What can I do to introduce you to others? What can I do to propel your career? How can I make your show better? What can I do to help you? Well, the natural reciprocity out of that, is “Aaron, thank you. Man, thank you very much. What can I do for you?” You see how it works?
But if I just go to you and say “Okay, Zephan, we’re gonna do this interview today and I want you to talk about these documents, I want to talk about this book, I want you to talk about View From the Top, I want you”—it’s like, dude, hold on! What are you doing? And I’m like “I want to help you. I want to bring value.” Isn’t it a lot more enjoyable to go at it with that process? And out if it, you’re gonna naturally want to help me, because I’m helping you. It’s just—the humanitarian thing to do it to help others. But we get that so backwards because it’s all about me. It’s selfish. We want for ourselves.
Chris Brogan spoke recently at the Social Media Examiner in San Diego, and I got to know him a little bit, and we were talking. And he said “If you guys are gonna some up to be and just ask me for something before we have a conversation, just keep your seat. Don’t even come up, because I don’t even want to talk to you.” And I thought that was a really good word. Because it’s not like “What is it you’re interested in in me?” it’s “What is it can you get out of me?” and if you have that mindset, change your mindset to “What value can I bring to others?” and as a result of that, they’ll help you.
Zephan: Yeah, it’s very true. I see it happen each and every single day.
This has been a great conversation. I’d love to kind of bring this full circle and maybe just ask you, you know, is there any one golden thing, golden nugget, that you have learned out of your many years in relationships in business, in success, and even in, you know, failures and mistakes that you would want to really push out into the world and tell everyone right now. Is there any one thing that has really hit home for you?
Aaron: Yeah, I would say a couple of things. and we could talk a whole other show on this topic and maybe I’ll get invited back on day and we can have further conversations cause you’re really a great guy and I enjoyed this conversation.
There’s a couple of things that I wish the younger me had known, and that was the value more of the relationships. Money is great, and I want you to make plenty money, and I just want to help people to understand, to make the objective meaning and purpose, and the money will come as a result of it. And just don’t think about it, the money first and then the people. Because at the end of the day, you know, we got our health, we got the relationships. The time, the enjoyment, the purpose, the meaning. Empowering others.
And I would just encourage you to slow down just a notch and enjoy the day, enjoy the now, enjoy the conversations—and the money will come. I promise you the money will come, if you will continue to focus more on the client, more on the relationship, and bring something rather than the idea of getting something. You’ll be much more successful at the end of the day.
Zephan: Perfect. I think that’s the best way to end this conversation. And, real quick, again, if you could share with everybody those resources that you’ve put up online and the link to get to that?
Aaron: Yeah, go to viewfromthetop.com/yearofpurpose, all in lowercase. And go there and we’ve put all three of these products on that landing page. And if you have a question, email me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to discuss it with you at any time. I’m a life coach, you know, I coach men one-on-one each and every day.
I run Iron Sharpens Iron mastermind group. It’s where we have ten men that get together on a scheduled time every week. There’s no more than ten in the group, I facilitate every group, and we do life together. and we do it long term and it’s a video conference room, so I have people in other countries that participate in these groups, and it is so impactful and meaningful and it gives you a tastes of what I’ve been able to experience for twenty years now, and I promise you, if you’ll get involved in those groups, it will radically change your life.
Zephan: And to back up what you’re saying there, I actually—just before we got on this call—got a text message from my mastermind group to schedule out next meeting. So for people who are listening in, this is something that people have been doing for quite a long time. This is not a new concept, but a lot of people have no hear of it quite yet. So if you aren’t doing this just yet, find either an existing mastermind group or get together with two or three of your friends. Usually it’s a smaller group. And meet consistently. And hold people accountable to what they’re doing and what their goals are.
It’s very useful for me and my business. It’s what got me to where I am now, and I also do have an accountability partner, someone that I check in with, so I highly recommend doing both of those things.
Aaron: Yeah, it’s a good word. Zephan, thank you for having me on, man. What a blast it’s been. It’s been a privilege to be your guest, and hopefully at some point we can get back together.
Zephan: Absolutely. I’m excited to speak to you again soon.
Aaron: Okay, thanks, man.
Zephan: Have a good one.
Aaron: You too.