Transcript continued from the Episode 059 Show notes

Interview with Dan Miller of 48 Days

Mark: This has been coming for a long time. You guys know that back in February I did the work, I called Dan Miller. You might be wondering, “How do you get a guy like Dan Miller to come on your show?” I’m going to tell you; you just ask.

Hey, Dan. How are you doing?

Dan: I’m doing excellent, Mark. How are you?

Mark: I’m fantastic. Isn’t it amazing the kinds of things that you can accomplish in your life if you just understand what it is that you want and then do the work and ask.

Dan: Absolutely. It amazes me the resources, the connections, the opportunities people miss just because they don’t ask. They’re just sitting right there in front of them. Just ask.

Mark: I know that in my listening audience there might be a person or two that has never had the distinct pleasure of reading one of your books or listening to your show. I love your show, by the way. When people ask you what you do, what do you tell them?

Dan: I love to respond to that. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, has never understood what I do. She finally just started telling people I’m a conman, which I’m very content with.

My dad was a farmer. By vocation he was a Pastor at a little church, but then we were farmers to keep food on the table. He never really could understand what I did. He loved it, he was proud. He would see me on TV and he always had books to give away in his room at the nursing home in his last years. So he was proud of me, but he never really could get his head around it. He understands if you milk cows and sell the milk or if you grow corn and you take the corn to market, but you get paid to talk and to think, to write – how does that work?

So I’m in this world, much unlike the farming world that I grew up in, where I do get paid to coach, speak, and write. I love the opportunities that are connected with that. I’m very supportive of work models where people work with their hands. I still get a charge out of painting a room or getting out and mowing the grass, so I’m not saying that what I’m doing is the only thing to do.

But I found this space where I’ve had the opportunity to coach people going through these relentless inevitable career transitions for 20 some years. In coaching them, that opened up the opportunities then for people saying, “I want to share what you just talked about in our Sunday school class with my son-in-law who has been without work for six months.”

That kind of pushed me in the direction of creating printed materials. Then we got into this whole arena of doing audio products and teleseminars. I’ve just kind of followed all these new opportunities that keep appearing. Podcasting, like this, I love podcasting. Those things all together have created some really interesting and fulfilling opportunities for me.

So I’m an author, speaker, and coach.

Mark: If I were to sum it up, it seems like, from my point of view, all of that authorship, particular the three pillar books that you have under your name, and then all of these shows that you do on the radio, and all of these other communications that you do at 48Days.net, the core value proposition in all of that always seems to be helping people.

Dan: It is. I’ve branded behind this 48 Days for a long time now. That really is my mantra, that’s what sets me apart from all the other authors and career coaches out there, and there’s lots of them. I’m the guy who says, “You can change your life in dramatic ways in 48 days if you create a plan and act on it.” So my core, my home, my identity is transformation in 48 days. That has just been like somebody poured gasoline on what I was doing as a generic coach years ago.

Mark: It’s an excellent book, I’ve read it twice. You and I have talked about how that book has spoken to me directly, so that’s a book that I highly recommend. I know that people can find that both on Amazon and on your site over at 48Days.com, right?

Dan: Absolutely. We have lots of resources there. I’m having the opportunity, because that book continues to do so well (48 Days to the Work You Love) I’m now just completing a major revision that will be released in August 2014. It will be the 10 year anniversary of that book, which is a fun kind of thing to do. Books don’t usually have that kind of a life, but we’re doing a 10 year anniversary with a major re-launch in August.

Mark: Congratulations on that. That’s amazing. I’ve given that book away to so many people. I’ve bought actually multiple copies because I keep giving my copy away because it’s so good.

Dan: I appreciate that.

Mark: Your appearance here is not by chance. You and I have spoken a little bit about the kind of people that listen to my show. One of the things that constantly comes up in my discussions with people about building businesses, particularly on the internet, is that passion is really critical piece of being successful. By that I mean that oftentimes internet business can be difficult, and business in general can be difficult, and the chances of being successful are a lot higher if you can actually focus on something that you really care about.

One of the feedbacks that I get when I have this kind of discussion with people is this word passion comes up and I hear from people that they don’t really know what they’re passionate about. I know that you talk about passion a lot. One of the questions I wanted to ask you is… what do you tell people when they come to you and say, “Dan, I just don’t know what I’m passionate about.”

Dan: That’s a great question. It’s certainly a very common one, Mark. Here’s how I approach that.

I like to work with people who have had a little life experience. By that I mean it’s easier to answer some of these questions when somebody has been out here in the trenches for a few years than an 18 or 20 year old. So I like to work with people who have had enough life experience so they have something to draw from.

Finding one’s passion usually comes not from just going to sit on a rock somewhere and hoping for that bolt of lightning strike, but it comes from looking at recurring themes. We recognize, “Oh, it’s when I’m doing this that I feel like I’m in the zone. It’s when I’m doing this that I really come alive. It’s when I’m doing this that time flies by.” It’s in seeing those little indicators that we get clearer and clearer about what is the seed of a passion.

But that really merits a little more unfolding as well, because passion does not show up full blown. We have the seed, just in the same way that God may give us a talent as an artist, that doesn’t mean you wake up one morning and you are able to create $10,000 paintings. You nurture that, spend time in there, you practice, get training, coaching, learn more, and you develop that.

Passion, really in the way that we can identify, “Michael Jordan is passionate about basketball,” comes from investing lots and lots of time to develop that seed of an idea, seed of a desire that we recognize.

Mark: Let me interrupt you there for a second. Maybe we should unpack the word a little bit. One of the things that I hear a lot is some argument about what that actually means at all.

What does the word passion mean to you?

Dan: To me it means something that is reoccurring, that when you focus on that your heart sings, you really feel like this is something you would do even if you weren’t being paid money for it. That’s really some of the kind of concepts that we expect to come out of passion.

That takes a lot of different forms, a lot of different applications; people are passionate about bringing fresh water to people in third world countries, it can be something like that. It can be that you’re passionate about birds or wildlife, or passionate about writing.

This is a very individualized and personalized process, there’s nothing cookie cutter about it. That’s why even in the discovery of it sometimes it doesn’t take a very consistent path, people discover and kind of trip over a passion. But really a lot of it comes from just paying attention.

A lot of people get so used to what in essence is their own version of Groundhog Day, they just go to work, work Monday through Friday, the weekends they do something, and they’re back at work Monday. They just get into that predictable pattern and they miss so much. So to discover the seed of a passion, I often help people interrupt their routine.

Drive a different way to work. Read a book that you wouldn’t otherwise read. Go to a concert of somebody you’ve never heard of before. Go to an art show, even if you don’t enjoy art. Take a child and walk through the woods, you’re going to see things you would not otherwise see. You have to really have your antenna up, so to speak, to start to recognize these things, but everybody has it there.

I spoke recently over near Memphis and I spoke about time to hang onto dreams. There’s a wonderful poem by Langston Hughes called Dreams that starts off, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is like a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” A real poignant metaphor for what happens if you lose your dreams.

A guy came up to me afterward and said, “You know, I don’t have any dreams.” I said, “That’s not possible. Tell me about your life.” This is a two minute conversation. He’s a pharmacist. What he described is kind of that image we use sometimes when we talk about the frog in the kettle. It doesn’t matter if it’s scientifically true or not, it’s a great image.

We’re told that if you put a frog in hot water he’ll jump out, but if you put a frog in lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, he’ll sit there and cook to death because he doesn’t respond to the little subtle changes. That’s exactly how this guy described his life in the last 20 years. Changes in his profession, but he just kind of went along for the ride, and in doing so became totally numb to what his heart was telling him, his childhood dreams, his own passions.

So it’s a not matter of superimposing something, it’s a matter of peeling away life enough so that we can see what’s already there. That’s what I experience as I work with people who are trying to discover their passion. It’s not that we’re going to teach them something they’ve never thought about before, it’s peeling back the layers of the onion so we can see what’s there already and then develop it.

Mark: Passion seems to me to be such a loaded word at times. Are these passions that you talk to people about, are they at the exclusion of all other interests? A lot of times I hear people say things like, “Well, I’m interested in many things, but I’m not really passionate about anything.” How would you respond to that?

Dan: That’s a great starting point. No, I don’t expect it to be like the movie City Slickers where Curly says one thing. I really don’t go there. I have lots of things, I enjoy remodeling projects, I enjoy being out in the yard, I enjoy old cars, I go to car shows all the time, I love taking my grandkids to the zoo. But those are not things that I’m going to develop into an income generator, they’re just interests that I have. Now, I could call some of those passions.

I think it’s okay to have lots of things, but when it comes to creating an economic model then we need to focus in and say, “Okay, this is what I’m going to develop.” That’s a different story. There a lot of times I run into people, especially creative people, who say, “Oh, I can paint, I can sculpt, I can draw, I can dance, I can sing, I can…” That’s okay, but you can’t have much success if you’re just all over the map.

Ultimately you have to decide, “This is what I’m going to focus on for the next two or three years.” That doesn’t mean you’re rejecting everything else, it doesn’t mean you’ll never come back to them, but it means in terms of creating a business model this is what you’re going to develop.

I do think that ought to be right in the heart of something that you’re passionate about.

Mark: What I hear you saying is there’s a need to focus – or I might use the phrase “to have a niche” – and there’s leverage in making sure that niche is well aligned with one of your strong interests or preferably something that you either already have or will develop into a passion.

Dan: Yes, right.

Mark: That brings another question. In your mind, are these passions interests that develop into passions or are they some hardwired predetermined, divinely inspired things that you’re born with?

Dan: Wow. You wrapped some big questions into that one sentence. I don’t have hard and fast opinions on that.

I run into people who recognized a passion when they were 3 years old and it’s exactly what they’re doing now. But I run into a lot of people who went through a lot of years growing up, going through school, diversity of things, different family influences, and all of a sudden they’re 40 years old and they haven’t really identified a passion.

I think we can find the seed of a passion before that time, but for some of them it’s going to be developing something. Really it could be developing something that wasn’t even a possibility five years ago. There are people that are passionate about developments in social media, but five years ago we didn’t have that term, we didn’t know what that meant.

It doesn’t need to be something that has been there for all eternity, but still there are characteristics of what is going to emerge for any given person that I think we can find keys to that even when they’re quite young.

I grew up on a farm and I thought every kid had to get up at 5:00 in the morning to milk cows and throw hay bales before they went to school. It was a real revelation to me when I discovered that some kids just got up, ate their breakfast, got on the bus and went to school. I thought, “You got to be kidding me?” I thought every kid got up and spent two hours working before they ate breakfast and then catch the bus to go to school.

I grew up in that kind of environment, working with your hands, but even at a very young age I was drawn like a magnet to books, to the Horatio Aldredge story, stories about people changing their lives by changing how they thought and what they allowed into their mind.

The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale had a profound impact on me and became a real foundational building block very young in my life, so I can go way back even though I spent years before I was an author, a speaker, or a coach. There were a lot of things that happened in there that I did just living life and having fun before I formalized all those things, but I can easily go back to very early experiences in my life and point to things that tie directly into what I’m doing now.

Mark: Now, correct if I’m wrong. That Nightingale, you had that in a record and you had to hide it under your bed when you were a kid. Isn’t that true?

Dan: That’s exactly right. That kind of thinking would not be welcomed in our house. That’s the kind of positive mental attitude where we’re taking control of our lives, and with the kind of religion that I was raised in that was not something we did.

Very essentially pawns, we just kind of get moved around by God through this miserable thing we call life and try not to screw it up too badly, then we’re all going to go to heaven and eat peaches and cream every day; that was kind of the model. So that idea of having that we focused on, that we developed, that we control, that we turn into productive enterprises, that was really stretch in my family environment.

Mark: Let me shift a minute from your Mennonite upbringing. Two things on that. One is for listeners who aren’t familiar with the Mennonite church, I encourage them to just go read the Wiki page and you’ll get an idea of exactly what Dan is talking about. The second thing is I strongly recommend that you go get this Earl Nightingale recording off of Amazon, I think it’s available for $0.99 now. It’s called The Strangest Secret and it’s 15 or 20 minutes long, something like that.

Dan: It’s about 15 minutes. I suspect they can find free recordings of it out there, or you can get a really beautiful gift book with an audio in it from Simple Truths out of Chicago called The Strangest Secret.

Mark: I recommend that to listeners, I think everyone should actually learn about Nightingale because of all the great things that came out of that.

To get a little more grounded and practical here, when you’re faced with someone who wants to make a change but they don’t know what they want to change to, obviously you’re telling them to focus on something that they care about, they’re complaining to you that they don’t know what that is. You’ve mentioned some techniques for figuring that out. Do you have some more directed guidance about how to decide what to build a business around?

Dan: I encourage people to start with something they already know about, they already enjoy, they already understand.

In the approach to my office here there’s this beautiful tree that was about a 65 foot cedar tree that, for some reason, did not come back to life in the spring about four or five years ago. Instead of cutting it down, I thought, “I want to see things that other people don’t see.” Long story short, I had a lady come out here and I said, “Terry, I think there’s an eagle trying to get out of the tree.” She agreed and released this amazing eagle that’s about 14 feet tall, the wingspan is about six feet, out of this tree.

Now, that’s not something that you’re going to just find in a book or in a list of occupational titles. It’s not there. It’s way to individualized for that. She remembered at 42, being a burned out corporate executive, how much she enjoyed spending time with her dad who enjoyed whittling and working on wood when she was a little girl. So she built on that, not that she goes and sits in the park on Saturday morning and whittles and whistles, but she turned it into a focused business economic model and is rocking and rolling with that.

Start with something that you already know. But you have to have more than just passion. This is where a lot of people get stuck. They think, “I’m passionate about playing golf,” but you can never make any money doing that, or they think, “I’m passionate about music,” or passionate about whatever, it doesn’t have to be just the creative arts, it can be anything, it can be computers.

We have to have three legs to the stool. Passion is certainly one. Talent is one. Lord knows the people we’ve seen on The Voice or American Idol, they’re passionate about being in the music industry and they open their mouth and you think, “Oh my gosh, who told them they ever had a future in music?” Their passion exceeds their talent. So we have to have passion, but we have to have talent. Now, we can develop talent a lot, but you still start with a seed of a talent that I think is already there.

Passion and talent, even those are not enough. There are a lot of people who want to change the world, who want to do something noble, who want to make the world a better place, they have passion, they have talent, but they never create an economic model. They just flounder around and they end up being frustrated and angry at God because they wanted to make the world a better place and nothing happened. We have to very strategically create an economic model. A lot of people struggle with that.

Here’s irony. If somebody comes into something and says, “We need to deliver oil down the Mississippi River,” we would just approach that as a business idea. But sometimes it’s the very things that we enjoy doing the most that are the most challenging to develop an economic model.

I work with a lot of artists, actual artists who paint on canvas. They are notorious for treating it as a hobby, but being frustrated because they don’t make money. How are you going to make money if you don’t develop a business plan? Who is your target audience? What are you going to do for key marketing exposure? How are you going to let people know about what it is that you have, how they can be the proud owners of that?

You don’t just take a walk in the park with anything, but a lot of people have more difficulty developing their passion into an economic model than they do something that they just see as a way to make money.

Mark: I’m cheating here because I think I know what your answer is going to be, but how do you reconcile the need or even desire to make money with the need to deliver value in a business and help people? Don’t you find people worry about the fact that if they get money for something that they’re the winner and the person that gave them the money is the loser?

Dan: All the time. It absolutely breaks my heart to have it presented in that way.

To me, if I want to make more money, I have to figure out how to serve more people. That’s it. It’s not complicated. How can I serve more people? If I server more people, on the backend I’m going to make money in ways that I couldn’t have even expected. It’s not an either or, this is not a win or lose proposition.

If somebody pays me $20 for one of my books, if they’re $20 poorer and I take my granddaughters to Taco Bell and now the $20 is gone, that’s a horrible model. I ought to hang my head in shame and go do something else.

My anticipation is that by giving me the $20 they’re going to open up a new area of their life that is going to explode their success. I hope they make $50 to $1,000 extra next year. I get testimonial after testimonial about how people’s lives were changed in response to a $20 investment for a book or $8 for an audio, or getting my podcast for free.

Nothing thrills me more than to get the kind of letters I do as a result of my podcast from listeners that say, “Oh my gosh, I put in place what you were talking about, I just simply changed my attitude at work. You’re right, the circumstances that I thought were so bad, the toxic environment that I was talking about, disappeared. Not only did I rediscover the joy of my work, my boss sat me down and gave me a 15% increase when it wasn’t time for performance evaluations or end of year or anything.” I get those stories all the time. How cool is that?

So if I want to make more money, how can I find more people to serve? It’s just that simple.

Mark: I have one last idea or question for you that I’d like to expand on. I know we’re running up against time here a little bit. One of the things I’ve seen, and I’ll use our mutual friend Cliff as an example, I think if you asked Cliff Ravenscraft today if he were passionate about podcasting, which you might think by seeing how he behaves, that he would say no, he’s not passionate about podcasting, he’s passionate about the way that he’s able to help and reach and do things with people through podcasting. So he has become excellent in this one thing because he has this passion that’s broader, deeper, or more purposeful.

I’m wondering what you have to say about that idea, that it’s not that you’re passionate about birds, you’re passionate about the environment and in order to leverage that passion you work with birds. Can you comment on that a little bit.

Dan: Sure, I’d be delighted to. That’s a great example that you gave me as the set up there. I love podcasting, I’m not sure how Cliff would respond, but I know how his thinking goes and I can share what’s happened for me.

I started this path that I’m on by teaching as a volunteer a Sunday School class on career life transitions. That was the deal.

We discovered it was like a magnet in the community. We were having people come to the Sunday School class that were not even part of that church. They would come there for Sunday School and then go back to their own church for the sermon. I thought, “Well, that’s ridiculous.” In that I’d have 30 to 40 people in our class.

We moved it to a Monday night to make it easier for people to come and we started having 60 to 70 people consistently that would show up for that.

Then I had a chance to be on the radio on WTN here in Nashville, 100,000 watt station that reaches into three states. We started tracking Arbitron ratings, like radio stations do for how many people are listening in a 15 minute period, and they said, “You’ve got 600 to 800 people,” which is really good. There are radio stations that have six people listening in a 15 minute period, so that was really good.

Then I started putting segments up on iTunes when I started working toward podcasting and now we’re hearing from people not only from three states away, but people from Ethiopia and Nicaragua, Brazil, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden. I was like, “You have to be kidding me?”

So I left terrestrial radio totally and went to podcasting. Now we have between 90 and 100,000 people who download my podcast.

Podcasting is simply a method of connecting and delivering. You show me the next generation of technology or whatever that will give me that kind of a multiple for our audience, I’m finished with podcasting. I’m not married to podcasting, I just find right now podcasting is an incredibly powerful way to connect with people. It’s our most powerful exposure tool right now for generating product sales, event attendees, coaching requests, all the things that we do.

The podcasting itself, I’m not passionate about that. It’s the best tool that I’ve found to accomplish my purpose right now.

Mark: Excellent. Dan, I really appreciate you spending time with me today. I want to encourage people to find you in one of the ways that I found you, which is through your excellent and amazing 48Days.net community. Can you comment on that and what that’s all about for me?

Dan: Yes. When I was approached by some helpful advisors four years ago about creating a social network I said, “No. We don’t need another Facebook or MySpace. I don’t care what somebody had for breakfast, they shouldn’t care about what I had.”

They said, “We can shape this so that it really connects people who think like you do. People are really serious about putting life in their dreams and turning it into viable income generation.”

So I said, “Okay, we’ll try it for 90 days and then I’ll decide if we want to continue it or not.” Well, I was pretty blown away by what happened in 90 days, so we’ve continued with that.

It’s this amazing community. What I love about it is that it’s not all just one directional with people picking Dan Miller’s brain. We have thousands of people who are brilliant, who are smarter than I am in a whole lot of areas, who are willing to share their experience and advice. All these groups are happening in there and we have hundreds of interactions that are going on at any given day where people are asking questions and getting advice, opinions, and help from a whole lot of other people.

I stand back just watching what’s going on. There are times when I’m not involved in there at all. We have a group of advisors. It’s this amazing community of people that really are linking arms. I really believe in the old adage “a rising tide raises all ships.” These are people who are unselfishly sharing and enjoying the success of lots and lots of people. And we’re seeing it day by day. That’s where a lot of these stories are coming from – 48Days.net.

Mark: If people want to find you, of course there’s your podcast, which I highly recommend and listen to every week. Where’s another good place to find you?

I guess 48Days.com is your hub of existence, right?

Dan: 48Days.com is our primary site, lots of resources, my reading recommendations and all those things there. People can find my blog and my podcast, newsletter, lots of free resources that we have there.

I’m in a lot places, I’m not hard to find at all. We have these amazing events here on our property just outside Franklin, Tennessee. We just had one here last week. Those are experiences that are so outrageous I find it hard to describe them. Each one takes on a life of their own.

In this last one we had a whole bunch of people here who want to be coaches, so this is helping people develop their coaching practices. But we went for a walk back through our nature trail and there’s a magnificent mulberry tree back there that happens to be in full bloom right now, not just with flowers, but with mulberries. I had this whole group of people back there and we’re gorging ourselves like a bunch of five year olds on fresh mulberries.

We really include people in our lives when they get connected with us. This is not just head knowledge, this is creating a life that is meaningful and purposeful. We have a lot of things – we include our granddaughters, they do drawings for door prizes at our events here, and we have a zip line people can go down.

We try to make it very difficult for people to determine if we’re working or playing. I just love that model where it’s hard to determine if you’re working or playing. So when people get involved in our community we just have fun together in a lot of ways.

Mark: Dan, I really do appreciate your time. I want to thank you, and on behalf of my listeners I want to thank you for being here. I hope you have an absolutely fantastic day.

Dan: Thank you, Mark. It was an honor to be your guest today. I hope we’ve stirred up some cobwebs at least to give your listeners some new hope and inspiration. Thanks for having me on.

Mark: Take care, Dan. Thank you.

Wrapping Things Up

I hope you guys really enjoyed that. I love Dan and he is just an awesome guy. I can’t thank him enough for being on the show. Once again, I really want to encourage you to get over to 48Days.com and check Dan out. He’s a great guy and he can help you.

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