Mark: I am very excited, I’m almost beside myself excited, about our guest today. My friend Ray Edwards is with us today. Ray, how are you?
Ray: I am fantastic, Mark. Thank you.
Mark: I am so excited to have you here, for so many reasons. Chief among them is, as you know, I’m a fan of The Ray Edwards Show. I love to bring people on to the Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast that truly inspire me. The stuff that you do over at your show, the way you conduct yourself, and in the personal interactions that we have, you literally inspire me on a weekly basis, which is kind of amazing. The value of that to me is just infinite. So I wanted to say thank you and I wanted to get some of that for my listeners. Are you up for that?
Ray: Absolutely. Thank you for those kind words. I will do my best to live up to them.
Mark: I appreciate that. There may be at least two listeners that don’t know who you are, so I’m going to give a little description of how I view you and then I’d love for you to embellish.
Ray is a famous copywriter. That’s how I would describe you. In internet marketing circles you are very well known for your ability to write amazing copy. In fact, if my listeners want an education on how to write fantastic email copy, I would strongly encourage them to go over to RayEdwards.com and join your list just to read the emails. But your copywriting experience, you’ve worked for Tony Robbins and lots of other amazing marketers, you’ve done lots of big launches and all this kind of stuff. But that’s just kind of a single dimension to your multidimensional life online.
Over at RayEdwards.com now you’re really teaching people how to change the world by building and growing a business, as the jingle for your podcast says, with a little Christian twist to it, which I find absolutely delightful and fascinating. Can you sum up for these guys how you describe your business these days?
Ray: Sure. We help business owners sell more of whatever product or service they sell with integrity, with passion, and without being pushy or sleazy. The goal is to help people prosper, but to do so with purpose. Because I think just piling up a treasure for yourself and building your own little kingdom is ultimately not a very satisfying end. What will happen to you is you’ll get there to the top of the little mountain you’ve built and you’ll ask, “Is this all there is?” and the answer will be no, it’s not all there is, there is something more. My belief is that something more can be found in God and in his son Jesus Christ.
Not everybody shares that belief and I understand that. I never am trying to preach to people, change their mind, or convert them, or anything like that. I’m just sharing from what is working for me in my life and my business. I invite people to pick and choose what works for them and walk away with that.
Mark: I love that. The way I would describe that part of it is that your Christian values inform the way that you choose to run your business. While that could be a whole other show about how that works, I have something that I think would be incredibly valuable to unpack for the audience that I would like to talk to you about. Are you up for some deep digging?
Ray: Dig away.
Mark: All right. You are, by any measure, an incredibly successful online personality. You’re running a successful business, you have an incredibly successful website, you have a podcast with 250 five star reviews, things are great and this is a very profitable enterprise that you are running and it’s very well understood.
Recently you and I both promoted Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever product. As part of that promotion Michael used a video of you talking about the personal impact that had had in your life. To summarize it, you, an incredibly successful person by all rights, were able to use some of the concepts to break through to the whole next level.
I saw some of myself in this. In some ways what you described was making the same kinds of resolutions year after year and not really quite getting there, not being able to really make it happen. And then something changed. Can you describe that place where you were? And then I want to talk about what’s the magic, what happened, what was the difference in 2016 for you personally and for your business that allowed that transformation.
Ray: Where I was, as you’ve already pointed out, by many measures I was already successful. I don’t discount that, I was very grateful for the things that we had enjoyed in our business and in our life. But I knew, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. The rest of the story was I had some huge health problems, many of them stemmed from my use of a fork in that I used a fork to eat all of the wrong foods most of the time, and I was grossly overweight.
Mark: I have that same fork.
Ray: It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Mark: I have the same fork. I don’t know how that’s possible, but we share a fork.
Ray: It’s kind of scary how well that fork works. I was 104 pounds too heavy. I was always conscious of the fact that I could be very successful in my business and make a lot of money, but there was an area where I was not demonstrating the same kind of discipline and it was visible to anybody who looked at me.
Then there were things behind the scenes that people did not and could not see that were also true. One of them was that I was deep in debt. This is just an interesting observation, it’s not always true, but it is often true that obesity and debt seem to go together, they seem like a partnership of some kind. I think in many cases there is an underlying causality.
Mark: We should point out that you were in debt despite the fact that by a lot of people’s standards you were generating a lot of money.
Ray: I was making what for most people would be a lot of money, yes. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in income – and I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We were nearly half a million dollars into consumer debt. By consumer debt I mean credit cards, loans, car loans, and things like that.
And there was more. I had made resolutions every year for the last 10 to 15 years to fix these things; to fix my health, to fix my debt problem, to create a retirement income for my family, for my wife to relieve her of the stress that I was putting her through with this constant money struggle. I felt like there was an integrity issue, because I kept saying I was going to do certain things and I did not do them.
As each year goes by you begin to realize through the course of your life at some point there are fewer years ahead of you than there are behind you. Then I got a diagnosis of a medical condition that really highlighted that for me.
It just got me to a point where I realized it’s time I’ve got to either put up or shut up, I’ve either got to do the things that I’ve said I’m going to do or stop lying to myself and stop lying to everybody that I say things to and just face up to the fact that I’m going to be fat, broke, and sick for the rest of my life. That was my rock bottom. I realized that I have to either decide that I’m going to do something about this or face who I really am.
Mark: The backdrop for this is by many measures, including by my own personal measure, you are incredibly successful, the image that you had out there. Weight aside, we all could use to lose a little weight is the way I would have viewed that at the time, who am I to criticize those who need to lose weight. But, there was this big conflict. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I know you were very serious, and you mentioned this in some context that every year you would essentially try to attack this problem in the way that I think most people do, you would have these resolutions and plans, and even get started to kind of turn the ship with regard to health and fitness, and it didn’t really happen. Is that a fair characterization?
Ray: Yes, that’s absolutely where I was.
Mark: So you’re failing over and over again. The reason that I resonated so strongly with this is I have similar goals. I don’t have half a million dollars in consumer debt, but I have similar goals that I can point to where every year I talk about “this is the year I’m going to get down to it, I’m going to lose 40 or 50 pounds,” and it never happens. In fact, I usually end up gaining five. I don’t think it’s just you and me, Ray.
Ray: No, I think it’s a very common experience. But I had reached a point where I was determined I was either going to have the uncommon experience or I was going to face the facts. For me this was a really desolate place to be, because for me it meant if I admit that I’m just not going to set goals anymore, I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to lose weight, I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to get out of debt, I’m just going to realize that I’m going to keep being fat, undisciplined, and broke.
I had great income and I never lied about that, but I didn’t tell the whole story. The whole story was that when you have that kind of debt it weighs on you like a stone around your neck. I realized that either I have to stop lying and do something or I have to just face this is how life is. For me that felt hopeless, it felt like saying, “All this time I’ve said life can be good and the truth is life just sucks.”
I was just unwilling to say that. That really sprang from my faith that God has promised us something better. It was tied up with that also. It meant that I was going to have to say, “God, you lied, too.”
Mark: Right, which that presents a whole other set of problems.
Ray: I knew that wasn’t true.
Mark: So at that point, this would have been at the end of 2015, I can distinctly remember because we worked through some of this in our mastermind group, you went through this process that Michael Hyatt offers, the Best Year Ever process. And the results for your 2016 are miraculous. The Best Year Ever is closed, we’re not selling that here.
What I want to understand is, first, what is it that you were able to accomplish in 2016, and then I want to talk about how. I feel like there have to be some core ideas that we can dig out of this transformation that you’ve gone through that my listeners can use and apply in their own lives starting as soon as this recording ends.
Ray: First of all, in all fairness I want to say that I started this journey in 2015, so it was kind of a ramping up. In 2015 I accomplished some cool things, but 2016 was the year of amazing progress, for sure.
Mark: So let’s talk about two years. Over the last two years, what have you been able to change and accomplish in your life versus where you started?
Ray: These numbers will be a little bit different if you saw the video or some of my emails, they’ll be a little different because time has passed. I’ve lost 60 pounds of fat. We paid off all of our consumer debt except for the mortgage on the house, and we’ve cut that almost in half. We will pay that off in a few months if things continue to go as they are going.
Mark: Wow. Congratulations on that. That’s amazing.
Ray: Thank you. I’m looking forward to the day I can go do my debt free scream on Dave Ramsey’s show. In his studio, I’m not going to do it on the phone, I’m going to go to Nashville and do it there.
Mark: You know Dave, right?
Ray: Well, we’ve met. I think to say I know him would be a stretch. We’ve met a couple of times and we have some close mutual friends.
Mark: That must have been uncomfortable, meeting Dave Ramsey with $500,000 of debt in your pocket.
Ray: Oh yeah. This is the truth, I was totally afraid he would look me in the eye and say, “So how much consumer debt do you have?” He would never do that, he’s too classy a guy to do that. He kind of feels like my dad in a way, he has that dad x-ray vision and I know he’s going to see right to the problem.
So we paid off almost half a million dollars in consumer debt. I read The Bible through four times in the year, four 90 day cycles through The Bible. I mean I actually read it, I didn’t speed read it or skim it, I didn’t skip Leviticus.
Mark: I would have forgiven you for that.
Ray: I didn’t understand much of Leviticus, but I read it.
Ray: I read, and I had a goal that was lower than this but in the end the count was about 70 books other than The Bible. I’m not counting those 66 books as part of my total, because The Bible, for those that don’t know, is made up of 66 separate books.
My relationship with my wife was deepened, which I would have thought was nearly impossible because we had a great relationship. I took a 30 day sabbatical from work and I was mostly successful at that. I need to practice on that one.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder that the doctor said, “This will never get better. It’s just only going to get worse.” That’s the universal prognosis for this, Parkinson’s Disease is what I’m talking about. I just decided that I don’t accept that.
Toward the third quarter of this past year, 2016, I went for my quarterly exam with my neurologist and after talking with me for a few minutes he put his pen down and said, “You know, you actually seem better.” I said, “I am better.” He said, “That does not happen with this disease.” I said, “Well, I beg to differ.” He laughed and said, “So what are you doing?” and we talked.
For me, all of these things come, first and foremost, through the grace of God and then He provides vehicles for these things to happen. Those are the highlights of the things that occurred during the last year. Nobody is more amazed than I am. I don’t say all of this to brag and say look at how special I am. I really share it because I hope that it will inspire somebody to go and do the things and tackle the things in their life that challenge them.
Mark: Me. It inspires me. That’s why you’re on the show today, because that is exactly the reaction that I had. I heard this story and I was there, I saw it. We talk once a week and I saw this happen and it was just so remarkable because it’s not like you were starting at zero or minus. This is a successful guy who just came to a whole other level and slayed all of these demons on the way. That’s the context for this conversation.
Now, how? When you look back at this two year journey, what did you do differently? What changed? What’s the big takeaway for you and how are you going to do it again when the time comes to do it again? Which I assume you’re planning that 2017 is going to be a continuation of this going forward. How? What’s the magic?
Ray: I’m going to tell you. Before I do, I want to give this disclaimer. It shouldn’t take this dramatic of a revelation for everybody. I hope that you don’t have to experience it the way that I did. This diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, as I learned more about what they said was going to be in store for me, I developed a very cold chilling feeling in the pit of my stomach and I had this revelation that this could be it.
“This could be the beginning of the end. You could have seen your best days. Things could only get worse from here. You could go into disability, and ultimately into death, and have failed at most of the things that you promised the people you love you were going to do in your life. Your legacy will be Ray, the liar and the failure.” That’s how I felt. It made me literally physically sick to my stomach.
Something in me rose up and I became furiously angry. At first it was at myself, but then I realized I’m not angry with myself. This will be crazy time for some people, but I believe that there is God and that there is the adversary, the Devil. Yes, I believe in the Devil, so you can do with that what you will, but he is the enemy of our souls. I realized nothing would make that guy happier than to see me end up like that.
That sparked a fire in my belly and I said, “That will not happen. I will either dig out of this pit or I will die trying.” I was going to do whatever it took. I sat down and had this conversation with my wife and my son and I said, “This is where I’ve been. I’m just admitting to you guys that I know what you already know, I’ve just talked a good game all these years and haven’t really done any of these things. You probably think this is just another time of Ray saying this time it will be different, this time I’ll really change.” It sounds like I’m an addict.
Mark: I can imagine that I know they love you and were probably incredibly supportive, but in the back of their mind they must have been thinking, “Here were go again.”
Ray: I’m sure that they had those feelings and I knew it at the time. But I knew something else. I knew that I was either going to do it or I was going to die trying.
Using that leverage and keeping that reality in front of me, I then began to look at the other side. That was the stick that motivated, what was the carrot? The carrot was that I believe that God has created a destiny for each of us that is better than we could possibly imagine and that he has good things in store for us, and that all of his promises are yes and amen. That’s kind of churchy language, what does that mean really? It means that if we would just believe and move forward, we will be rewarded for that belief.
I know that there are people who are in circumstances that they’re not going to perhaps in a practical way be able to move as far as fast as others of us can. If we live in America and we have a minimum wage job, we are in the richest 2% of people in the world, we have an advantage. I realize that it’s a matter of degrees, that somebody who is living in Haiti has a different set of challenges than I do. I understand that. I also know that those of us who live in America or in a developed country have an advantage and we have a responsibility to be a good steward of what we have been given and make the most of it, express the most value, so that we can help those other people. That was a huge driver that also pushed and pulled me forward.
Mark: Wow. Strong motivation, clear direction; what about tactics?
Ray: Of course I used Michael’s Best Year Ever program. I’m not going to rehash or re-express his material, but I will say that some of the tools that are in there that really worked for me were getting clear about not only what my goals were but limiting the number of goals that I focused on, then defining with great detail the reasons why.
That’s really important. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, when it gets tough you’ll just quit. So I’ve really spent a lot of time writing out in detail why these things are important to me and also writing out in detail what will be the consequences if I don’t accomplish this.
Mark: Right. Weight loss is a really good example of this. Rather than saying, “I’m going to lose weight because that’s everyone says I should do,” or because it’s what is expected or whatever, you really unpacked it.
Ray: Yes. Unpacking it looked something like this, “If I don’t lose this weight I will be a liar. I will lose the respect of my family. I will lose my self-respect. I will probably develop diabetes. I will probably develop heart disease. I will probably shorten the span of my life. I will probably accelerate the progression of Parkinson’s Disease in my body. I will become miserable and more sick in every possible way.” Those were consequences of not following through.
Also, I made most of my goals public. Not all of them, but most of them. So there was just this shame factor that if I don’t do this I’m going to be really ashamed.
Mark: Accountability would be the term I would use for that. But, your goals weren’t limited to these personal weight loss and health goals. You had some very aggressive financial goals for your business that probably are very similar to the kinds of goals, at least in change and percentage, that people listening to this podcast have. I take it that you went through that same process with these financial goals to unpack and understand what the true core motivation was for those goals as well.
Ray: Yes. For every goal I listed the cost of not achieving the goal and then I listed the benefits of achieving it. Frankly, I made the costs list longer than the benefits list, because the truth is whether we like it or not human beings are more motivated to get out and stay out of pain than they are to chase after pleasure. I believe it’s just how we’re physiologically wired. I decided to use my brain’s own proclivities to achieve the things that I wanted to achieve.
Mark: One of the approaches that you’ve used for weight loss is to restrict the amount of non-value added carbs, sugar and stuff like that. In the moment when I’m about to eat that piece of cake, or when I need to be working on my business, and in the moment when I make that decision to go watch NCIS or whatever instead, back in January you listed all of these consequences, now it’s March and you’re trying to decide whether or not to eat this sticky bun at the coffee shop that you and Shawn go to. How did that work? How did you keep that with you all year long?
Ray: Well, I failed often. What I discovered about myself is that I don’t have enough willpower to do it by willpower alone. A big part of the answer for me was to remove the temptation, to not have the carbs in the house, to not go to places that served the kinds of things that I’m really tempted to eat that I shouldn’t.
There’s a saying. This might be offensive, so you might want to edit this out. There is a saying that goes like this. Nobody goes to a whore house looking for a ham sandwich.
Mark: I’m not editing that out.
Ray: It would be a big mistake for me to go to The Cheesecake Factory, so I avoided that. I tried to keep most of the stuff out of the house. It’s a challenge if you live in a house of people who don’t have the same dietary restrictions as you and they like to keep stock of Oreos. You have to exercise some discipline.
It was a battle. It still is a battle. I must be honest, I’ve had periods where I’ve been really good about that and periods where I have not been so good. Part of the core strategy for me is to be honest about where I am. I don’t lie people if I’m having trouble, if I’m eating stuff I shouldn’t be eating then I tell everybody who will listen, and I tell them that I’m working on getting back on track with this. By the grace of God, I have not gained weight back, but I did plateau for awhile because of that very reason.
I think for each of us in these areas, especially the ones that we struggle with, it’s unrealistic to expect the struggle is going to magically go away. So you have to have a strategy for when it comes up.
Mark: I heard you say on your podcast that the 60 pounds you’ve lost is 60 of 100 total that you intend to lose. Is that right?
Mark: That’s amazing. I think the big takeaway for me for all of this is that wherever you’re starting, whether you’re successful, whether you see yourself as successful or you don’t, whether you see yourself as being able to achieve things or not, when you’re at this place where you have a place that you’re trying to go to and you can’t get there, there is hope for you and there is a way that it is possible to achieve these things. This is evidenced by the transformation that you made.
For someone who is in your kind of situation where they have been dreaming of building this business for years and every year said, “This is going to be the year,” or they’ve been dreaming of losing weight for years and every year has been the year, or they’ve been dreaming about finally starting their retirement fund, or finally fixing their marriage, or finally doing the thing; what is your advice for those people? This episode that we’re doing now is going to air right at the beginning of the 2017 and I want to leave people today with something that they can take away and go do. What is that, Ray?
Ray: I would take the time to get alone for a few hours, at the very least, away from your normal environment, away from distractions, and think about the areas of your life that most are in need of attention. You probably already know what those areas are, but I think it’s really important to write them down with a pen on paper.
Write down “what is not happening in this area of my life that needs to happen,” and then do what I mentioned earlier and write down “what is the cost of me not fixing this problem, what will ultimately happen.” And go all the way, what’s the worst possible outcome, if I never take care of this what will happen, what are the consequences. Then do the opposite and write down what are the benefits, “If I actually do take care of this, what benefits will I enjoy? What will my life be like then? Whose respect will I earn? Who will I demonstrate my love to if I do these things?”
When you’re writing out the cost, don’t forget the cost to people that you love. Really, it’s about getting clear on the why. Michael Hyatt’s wife Gail has a saying, she says, “People who lose their why lose their way.” I think that is supremely important. In fact, my apologies to Michael Hyatt, I think that’s the most brilliant part of his course is that quote from Gail.
Mark: It is quite brilliant. He dutifully gives her credit every time he says it.
Ray: Yes. Then once I’ve done that I would write down the specific outcomes that I intend to achieve in the coming year. Don’t just say, “I want to lose weight,” but be specific. “I want to lose 75 pounds by December 1, 2017 at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.” I’m actually that specific in my goals.
When you’ve done that and you feel solid about those – I say no more than seven goals, other people differ. I think trying to achieve more than seven big goals is kind of a big load to carry. – I would go share those goals with the people that you love and trust the most in your life who have a stake in your outcome. Say to them, as I said to my family, “These are my goals for the year. I’m going to need your help. I’m giving you permission when you see me getting off track, I promise that I will do my best not to get angry with you, but if I do you remind me in that moment I told you that you could say this, and I’ll eventually recover my sanity and apologize to you.”
Those are hard things to do, but anything worth working for is worth working hard for.
Mark: I completely agree. This is a completely inappropriate emotion, but I’m very proud of your accomplishments. It’s a great story. It’s so great because I think we often see successful people as having everything and having it all figured out, and successful people are people. I think your willingness to share this journey with my listeners is super helpful. I wish you all of the best in the new year and merry Christmas.
What I want to know is, I think there are going to be a lot of my listeners who want more of Ray after this dose, where should they go to get some more Ray?
Ray: I have created a special gift for your audience. Since my specialty that I’m known for is persuasive communication to sell your products and services, and also your ideas, so even if you don’t have an online business but you just need to convince people that the restaurant you want to go to for dinner is the right one…
Mark: Or the affiliate product that they’re recommending is the right product…
Ray: I would invite you to get a short but powerful video that I’ve prepared for you called The Three Keys to Persuasive Communication. You can find that video waiting for you at RayEdwards.com/markmason.
True to your level of integrity and generosity, there will be no opt-in required for people to get that video.
Mark: You’re very kind. Thank you very much. I hope you’ll have an opt-in form nearby, because I really do recommend that people that are marketers should be on your list to see how a real copywriter sends email, it really is a study.
Ray: Thank you for that. I will have an opt-in form available, but it will not be required to get the video.
Mark: Very good. You are very kind. Thank you so much. I wish you all the best in this holiday season for you and your family. I hope that Christmas is wonderful for you, I know it will be here and we’ll be thinking about you during the holiday season. I look forward to spending time with you next year.
Ray: Same here, Mark. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, to your family, and to your listeners.
Mark: Awesome. Thanks, Ray. Bye.
Wrapping Things Up….
I hope you enjoyed that intimate conversation with Ray Edwards. That’s a peek behind the curtain there. I hope that it’s instructive for you, that even successful people have these struggles that you and I have, and they fight these things. If they can overcome them, we can overcome them too.
I hope you found some things in there, some actionable nuggets that you can go get, particularly about understanding your why. Why is it that you’ve set these goals that you’ve set for 2017? What happens if you are unable to achieve them? What happens if you are able to achieve them? These are really good ways to approach getting yourself motivated to actually finally complete these goals that you set at the beginning of the year to lose the weight, to build the business, whatever it is that you’re going to do. If that’s something you struggle with, I hope this discussion with Ray has helped.
I want to encourage you to go watch the copywriting video over at RayEdwards.com/markmason. No opt-in required, no affiliate links, none of that. Just go check that video out. That will help you with your persuasive copy, as Ray mentioned, both on your blog or in your life.
Until next week, I hope you have an absolutely amazing January.
Remember, January is going to lead to February and then it’s going to be March, and then it will be summertime. Let’s get some stuff done in January and see where that takes us.