It can be easy to think that highly successful people have just ended up that way, fully formed. The reality is, almost every person deemed to have “made it” makes the same joke:
“I’m a ten-year overnight success.”
I’ve been fortunate to know Lewis Howes for about ten years, and what a ten years it’s been for him. His story will help you get over the idea that ridiculous levels of success happen any other way than one step forward at a time.
Lewis — who you may know as the host of the School of Greatness podcast, or as the author of the book of the same name — certainly has an instructive story about how to keep going in the right direction. You’ll also hear about the immense value in continual learning, following the personal path that is right for you, and just being a good person.
Oh, and you’re definitely going to want to check out his latest project, Inspiring Life on Facebook. It’s an example of the future of online video and also likely television itself.
The Show Notes
- Inspiring Life with Lewis Howes
- The School of Greatness podcast
- Rate/review Unemployable at Apple Podcasts
The Long Road to Greatness, with Lewis Howes
Lewis Howes: My name is Lewis Howes. I’m a human being that helps other people improve their lives, and I am unemployable.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable. The show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one, and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our Free Profit Pillars Course or choose to sign up for the newsletter only, at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com, and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: It can be easy to think that highly successful people just ended up that way, fully formed. The reality is, almost every person deemed to have made it makes the same joke: “I’m a 10-year overnight success.”
I’ve been fortunate to know Lewis Howes for about 10 years, and what a 10 years it’s been for him. His story will help you get over the idea that ridiculous levels of success happen any other way than one step forward at a time.
Lewis — who you may know as the host of the School of Greatness podcast, or as the author of the book of the same name — certainly has an instructive story about how to keep going in the right direction. You’ll also hear about the immense value in continual learning, following the personal path that’s right for you, and just being a good person.
Oh, and you’re definitely going to want to check out his latest project, Inspiring Life on Facebook. It’s an example of the future of online video and also likely television itself.
This episode of Unemployable is brought to you by FreshBooks. Easy accounting software for freelancers, consultants, and anyone else who works with clients. You’ve simply got to try it for yourself and you can with this free, unrestricted, no obligation 30-day trial. Just go to Freshbooks.com/unemployable, and make sure to let them know that Unemployable sent you over there in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.
Lewis, how are you, man? It’s good to get you on the show finally after all these years.
Lewis Howes: Yeah man, doing great.
Brian Clark: We’ve known each other for a long time and I feel like you’re just probably the most inspirational and maybe the most successful person I know. And we know a lot of people, so that’s saying something.
Lewis Howes: I appreciate it.
Brian Clark: It’s been such a kick for me to watch over the years how you’ve developed and just how inspirational you are to people. Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, because you do have a great new Facebook show. I really want to talk about this, because I feel like it’s the next step, the next evolution.
Lewis Howes: It is. It’s funny being in the blogging, podcasting, social media space that I guess is where we met, I don’t know, eight, nine years ago. I think it was Affiliate Summit maybe in New York or in Vegas.
Brian Clark: It was Vegas.
Lewis Howes: At Vegas.
Brian Clark: I remember you and Halpern and I probably…
Lewis Howes: Playing Russian Roulette or something.
Brian Clark: Yeah, we were in a dangerous state of intoxication, I think. We were just walking by roulette tables, making large bets and winning. We kept winning, but that’s another story.
Lewis Howes: You guys were making large bets, I was scrounging around for the scraps, but was enjoying watching you guys.
Brian Clark: I know, that cracks me up. We were just hanging out and you were just getting started at that point.
Lewis Howes: Just getting started. I was really good at meeting the right people early on. That was one of my skills — getting in the rooms, meeting the assistant of the guy and building such great rapport with that person or the videographer, or the so and so, of the person. Building a great relationship with them and somehow weaseling my way into the dinner at the end of the table or something. And then I would just listen. Ask questions and listen and just try to be a good human being to people.
I think that’s what helped me early on build proximity to influencers like yourself and build relationships with people who had reach, who had skillsets, who had audience, who had something going. Because at the time, I really didn’t have too much going. I was getting into the LinkedIn space, trying to make a name for myself. But I really needed other people to kind of bless me to their audiences or bless me with a tweet or whatever it may be with the content I was creating. So that was kind of how I got in early.
You were very nice to me, because you bought me dinner one time. You bought everyone dinner. It was like 15 people at a table at this steak restaurant and at the end of it, someone was like, “Oh, Brian got the tab.” And I was just like, “Thank goodness, because I could not have afforded this dinner myself.” So I appreciate it.
Brian Clark: So you made it to the table, but you were sweating.
Lewis Howes: I couldn’t. I was like, “What am I going to do?” Exactly.
What Were You Doing Before You Got Started?
Brian Clark: Let’s go back a little bit before that, because that was like eight, nine years ago.
Lewis Howes: Eight, nine years ago, 2009.
Brian Clark: Everything since then, I mean, for me, it’s interesting in this space, there’s kind of everything before 2010 when I merged the companies together, and everything since then. For me, in my mind, that’s kind of like a bright line spot where things have been different. But really just the last 10 or 12 years, I’ve been spending some time, especially when I get someone like you on the show and we can reflect a little bit on it, just how much things have changed, but also, just like I alluded to, how successful all my friends have become and what a kick it is to see that.
Let’s talk about a little bit before you decided that you’re going to meet the guy who knows the guy and…
Lewis Howes: You’re right, exactly.
Brian Clark: Which is a skillset in itself. I think there’s something to learn from that. But let me just say this before we get started. For anyone who knows Lewis as an online persona — and he has a large one — he comes across as probably the nicest person in the world. I’ve never seen Lewis any different than that at any point and that is amazing when you think about it. Because in this world of personal branding and highlight reels of social media, you never really know what you’re getting in real life, right? Have you been let down at one time or another?
Lewis Howes: I have been. Yeah, definitely have been. But I think the line is, “Don’t meet your heroes.”
Brian Clark: Right.
Lewis Howes: If you don’t want to be disappointed, then don’t meet your heroes or something. I have just always been blessed that when I’m interviewing a lot of these big people, I meet them in person, a lot of them have been extremely nice and kind. And I think you can tell if someone’s got a dark side or not.
I’ve heard some stories in Hollywood though about some people that are megastars that are in my mind very inspiring, on the outside looking in. But then, I hear from people who’ve met them that are like, “No, they’re the nastiest person.” I don’t want to say who, but it’s sad when you see that, because I think the bigger you get, the more grateful you should become. But sometimes, it’s the other way around and people are getting more and more…
Brian Clark: I know. It’s just the truth that success and all the money in the world don’t necessarily make you happy. It doesn’t necessarily make you a good person if you’re not happy with yourself. And to a large degree, I see a lot of that in the message that you try to bring to people. “Yeah, money’s great, but start with yourself. Maybe that’s where you should start as far as trying to find some peace in the world.”
Lewis Howes: That’s it.
Brian Clark: Anyway, I got you off track. Take us back a little bit like 10, 11 years ago.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I was in college trying to pursue my dream of playing professional football. I had some NFL tryouts but was never fast enough for the NFL. I was running a 4.6 40-yard dash. You really need to be in the 4.4 range to even get an opportunity to get looked at, at another level.
I had a lot of offers in the Arena League and Canadian Football League, but I decided to stay in the US. I played in the Arena League for about a season and a half, got injured, and I didn’t have any savings. We were making 250 bucks a week and we were begging for food vouchers, because they would hand out a few food vouchers at Chick-fil-A and some other barbecue places in Alabama that I was at, at the time. That was like gold. We would be trading food vouchers from other teammates and say, “I want this thing and I want that.”
250 a week for me was not a lot of money, but it was so fulfilling to pursue the thing that I loved. I would have done it for free anyways, and I was sacrificing my body, getting injured, long hours in the gym, constantly training to try to improve myself and achieve my dreams.
I think that’s one of the things I’ve learned over the years. I started making money at something in my first business, and I was so obsessed with making money, because I was broke about a year and a half prior to that. The more and more I made money, I got overweight, I didn’t have many friends or real personal relationships. It was just business relationships. I wasn’t sleeping well.
I remember saying to myself, “This isn’t worth it anymore to just keep doing this, because I don’t love it like I did my sport.” And I said, “What’s the thing that I would do that would make me feel alive, make me feel passionate and joyful even if I was making 250 a week? Now, I don’t want to do something that makes 250 a week, but even if that, what would that be?”
I started to pursue more of those things that were just fun for me, and that I would want to work hard for even if I wasn’t making money. Because when the challenges came, I was like, “Okay, I got this.” And now there are more opportunities that come.
So that was me 10, 11 years ago — playing football, living in Alabama, pursuing a dream. And then, injury to recovery with a surgery and being on my sister’s couch for about a year and a half, living off credit cards, trying to figure out what’s the next thing.
When I Realized I Was Unemployable
Lewis Howes: Talk about unemployable. I’ll give you a great story about the moment I realized I was unemployable. I was about a year and a half in on my sister’s couch, eating her macaroni and cheese, the leftovers that she had on food, sleeping on the couch. About a year and a half in – now, at this time, I was also kind of connecting with people on LinkedIn and I was doing stuff on Twitter, because that’s what was happening at the time, 2008, right? 2007, 2008, 2009.
At one point, my sister – she’s super sweet, super loving — is like, “I think you might want to get a job soon,” after a year and a half of this. And I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, I’ve been here too long. Now, I’ve got to finally do something.” So, I start applying on Craigslist. I started looking for jobs. Did you ever go on Craigslist, Brian?
Brian Clark: Yeah. It’s interesting how things go in cycles. That killed the newspaper classifieds and now everything else killed Craigslist.
Lewis Howes: It’s funny.
So she said, “It’s time to get a job.” I said, “Okay, I’ve got to figure this out. I can’t be here that much longer. She’s going to kick me out. I’ve got to start paying rent or something.”
I started looking for sports marketing jobs, because I was a sports management major and I liked sports. Maybe that’d be interesting. And I find a job in Columbus, Ohio that was a sports marketing thing that I thought, “You know what? This actually looks kind of fun.” You’re working with sports teams, you’re doing marketing campaigns, you’re doing branding stuff. I was like, “Maybe this could be something I’m interested in.” I applied online and got an interview, and I was supposed to go in sometime the next week.
So I was preparing for this. I was reading blogs about how to do interviews, how to get the job, what to say, what to do, what to wear, all that stuff, because I’d never done an interview before. I was getting ready for this interview and something just felt off. I put the clothes on, I had one sport jacket at the time. I put that on, my nicest pants or whatever, and I’m getting ready to go walk out the door to get there 30 minutes early, be in the waiting area and all that stuff.
I remember opening the door and looking out the front steps out to the road, and I couldn’t take a step out. I had the door open, looking out, but I could not take a step. I shut the door and I realized at that moment, “I’m not going to go to this,” because, whether it was my ego or I had mastered enough of how to get a job, I truly believed in my mind, “If I go there, I will get this job. I will get this, because I’ll be so convincing, so enthralling, so inspiring. I’ll tell them what they need to hear. I’ll back it up with the results I’ve had in sports and this and that and my degree.” It was an entry level job. So, I was like, “They just want a young hustler who’s willing to do whatever and that’s me.”
And because I knew in my mind that I was going to get the job, I was terrified because I was like, “I’ll be there for a year, maybe two years, maybe four years, and I’ll keep wanting to climb the ladder, because that’s my personality — wanting to grow, wanting to get better.” And I was just like, “That’s not what I want. That’s not playing professional football in the real world. That’s not living a dream. That’s just going to get a job for money.”
I realized then, “I’m going to have to learn how to be an entrepreneur,” because I’d never made money before that. I think when our back is against the wall of like, “Okay, there’s nowhere else to go, you’ve got to figure this out,” that’s when I got really creative and I had a willingness to learn even more and to put myself out there to start asking for money for the different things I was doing. That was kind of the beginning of the journey.
Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think everyone arrives at that. The fear of being trapped in a job was my first thing. And then…
Lewis Howes: Because you were a lawyer for many years, right?
Brian Clark: I was a lawyer for about four years before I couldn’t take it anymore. Then I started my own little firm in order to make money to pursue my other projects. But that’s when I got the entrepreneur thing. I mean, it wasn’t practicing law that I liked. The fact that I could develop business and land clients, I’m like, “Wow, this isn’t supposed to happen until I have gray hair, and here I am as a young kid.”
But it wasn’t really until I’d say seven years after that I had the realization that even as an entrepreneur, I don’t want to do things just for money. In other words, there has to be an alignment there. You’re probably the same way. Once you have that entrepreneurial mindset, you look out at the world and you see opportunity everywhere.
You’re like, “I can make money doing this. I can make money doing that.” Then you go, “But I don’t want to do that.” Right? That’s the question. Once you get to that point, it’s not “How can I make money?” It’s “How can I make money where I wake up every day and I don’t feel like crap?” And that takes a while.
Lewis Howes: Exactly, because then you’re just working at a corporate job that you don’t like to make money doing that.
Brian Clark: Yeah. No, it’s absolutely correct.
Lewis Howes: Running your own business that you hate and dread is just as bad as going to a job that you hate and you dread. You just have more pressure, more responsibility.
Brian Clark: It’s even worse, because there’s no one to hand anything off to once you’re in that position. Of course building a team that can take that pressure off of you is the job of the entrepreneur, especially for that day when you wake up and you go, “I don’t really feel like being hands-on with this anymore.” And you don’t want to start building then to get yourself out of it.
How Did You Build Your Business?
Brian Clark: Okay. So, back to you. Now, go back to about that time that we first met. What were you working on specifically then? Obviously you were meeting people and you did a fantastic job of making connections and all that.
Lewis Howes: Weaseling into the dinners, yes.
Brian Clark: No, you weren’t a weasel or I would not let you sit there. I have a very low tolerance for weasels.
Lewis Howes: I think I had to be willing to just be a good person and just be curious and ask questions and not bug people. That’s it.
Brian Clark: You hear people giving that advice all the time. I feel like there’s a contingent of people out there who think that’s sappy advice or it’s weak or it’s soft. I’m like, “You’re the idiot if you think that business is not that way.” I mean, the depictions of the cutthroat nature of things, yeah, I think that goes on. But I’ve tried to keep away from that stuff. And everyone I know that’s successful has kept away from it.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. For me, it’s always been about, “Who do I want to hang out with? Would I want to hang out with someone who is annoying me or someone who’s bringing me joy?” And I just think, “How can I bring people peace or joy?” and that’s the key.
Brian Clark: Austin Kleon, he wrote Steal Like an Artist. He loves to quote John Waters who said, “Success is never dealing with assholes.” So that’s the definition of whatever your type of person is or the person you don’t enjoy being around. That’s one thing that having a job or climbing the career ladder, you have to deal with a lot of assholes. That’s just the nature of the beast. When you can design your own life and even your own company, I think it’s not a completely avoidable situation, but you certainly have more say in how that ends up looking than other ones.
Lewis Howes: Right, yeah. And for me, at that time, I was early on building relationships on LinkedIn. I started to host these LinkedIn networking events. Before I met you, I started to host a few of them. I was building my audience on LinkedIn. It was kind of untapped. Because my sister said, “You’ve got to go find a job,” I went on LinkedIn and started looking for opportunities. I realized that I didn’t want to find a job on LinkedIn anymore, but people were reaching out to me and saying, “Hey, I saw that you’re connected to so and so. Can you make an intro?” “Hey, I saw that you know this person. I’m really looking to connect with him. Can you make an intro?” So I started making intros as my initial thing.
Then I started reaching out to people and just saying, “What’s the biggest challenge you’re having in your business right now?” They would tell me, “I’m really looking for a salesperson or a marketing person or an IT person or whatever it may be.” I was like, “Wow, that’s interesting. I just met three amazing people in the last couple of weeks. Let me connect you.” And I just became the connecting, introduction guy, early on.
Then, one guy said, “Hey, can you help me with my profile? Your profile looks really nice, and I have no clue what I’m doing on LinkedIn.” So I spent about an hour with him just saying, “Yeah, you should really change this. What’s your main goal? Change this and that doesn’t look good. Let’s do this.” He gave me 100 bucks at the end of it. I remember saying to myself, “Wow, you want to pay me $100 for this? This is easy stuff. I do this every day.” He said, “You have no idea how this is going to change my business.”
Then a light bulb opened up for me. I was just like, “Huh, okay. If one person this helped a lot, maybe there are other people.” I just started promoting my services as a LinkedIn makeover guy. And during that time, I started these events as well. I said, “Let me start connecting people in person.” I was doing it online. “Let me do these little meetup, LinkedIn networking events,” because tweetups were big in 2008, 2009. I remember going to a couple of tweetups and saying, “Huh, there should be a LinkedIn meetup.”
I did a couple of them and actually Jim Kukral came to one in Cleveland, Ohio. There were about 350, 400 people there. And he goes, “How the hell did you get this many people to show up on a Tuesday or Wednesday night who are all business professionals? How did you do this?” So, I said, “LinkedIn. I’ve just been working for a while and building relationships.” And he goes, “This is amazing. You need to be teaching this more online. You need to be telling people. No one knows how to use this, and you need to go to Affiliate Summit.”
I was like, “What’s Affiliate Summit?” And he’s like, “You’ve got to go there. You’re going to meet a lot of people who are smart marketers.” I was just starting out. I had no clue what I was doing. But I, for whatever reason, trusted him. You know Jim, right?
Brian Clark: I do know Jim.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, you know Jim.
Brian Clark: That’s an odd connection to make – “You need to teach people this and you need to go to Affiliate Summit.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, but I think it was just around the corner or something. It was probably like a month or two away, and he was like, “I’m going out there.” He was telling me about like, “I’m doing online marketing stuff and this is the world and you’ve got to be going to events, and check out Affiliate Summit that’s coming…” So, for whatever reason, the timing was right then.
He connected me. I was like, “I can’t pay for that. I can’t afford a ticket.” He actually got me a free ticket, because I go, “What can I do to get a free ticket?” Because I couldn’t afford it. He was like, “Well, maybe you can enter as press if you write about it and you promote it.” I was like, “I’ll do whatever.” I was willing to do whatever it took.
Brian Clark: So, Jim goes to Missy and Shawn, who is just a good guy.
Lewis Howes: Exactly.
Brian Clark: Those are good people. So you were starting early on the whole connection thing at the Affiliate Summit.
Lewis Howes: Early, early. I submitted this thing from their press form or something, trying to build up my credentials and stats in a big way. But I think Jim was just like, “Hey, Lewis just had like 4 or 500 people come to this evening in Cleveland. You should have him, because he can send people there.”
For whatever reason, I was waiting for days for an answer from them. And they were like, “Okay, here’s your press ticket,” like they didn’t care. They were probably like, “Sure, here you go.” But it was a big deal for me. I was like, “Oh shoot, Vegas.” And now I was like, “How do I get my plane ticket?” I think I got the cheapest flight on Southwest or whatever to get out there.
I think I stayed in a friend’s room in a house or something. I was literally at the bottom just figuring it out. That was the beginning. But it opened everything up for me.
That event actually kick-started so much, because I go say hi to Jim. He’s the only guy I know, and he’s in this – I don’t know if they do this anymore, but they used to have this day before kind of networking thing, where there were these little mini booths and he was like, “Come see my booth.”
I went to go say hi to Jim, who’s like, “Hey man, good to see you.” And literally 30 seconds later, Joel Comm walks by. Jim knew Joel and he was like, “Hey man, good to see you. Oh by the way, you’ve got to meet Lewis. He’s the LinkedIn guy, like the LinkedIn king.” I knew who Joel was at the time, because I started researching more, and he was having a moment at that time online.
I was like, “Oh shoot, this is a big influencer.” He was like, “Tell me about LinkedIn,” and I literally just babbled something in 30 seconds, I can’t even remember. That was it. He was like, “Cool, awesome.” I said, “If you ever need help with it, I’m happy to help you out and help you with your profile or whatever.” And that was it.
A couple months later, he reaches out to me, emails me and he says, “I remember what you said to me at Affiliate Summit, and I’m doing this social media bootcamp online. I’ve got a Twitter person, I’ve got a Facebook person and YouTube, but I don’t know anyone else talking about LinkedIn as passionately as you are. Can you come on and teach some stuff for an hour and help my audience?” I said, “Absolutely. Done. Just tell me what you need. I’ll do it.”
Now, I had no clue what I was doing at the time. I’d never done an online presentation or a webinar, and that’s what it was. So I put together some janky slides and had other friends help me, because I didn’t know what I was doing. He told me to have some type of offer, a product and I didn’t even know what that meant. I’d never built a website or a sales page or anything.
I put together a PayPal link, and that was it. I didn’t even have a sales page. I just had a PayPal link. I didn’t know how to redirect it into a pretty link, nothing. It was just this long number and letters.
At the end of this presentation, I was so nervous, terrified. There were 600 people on live. I was just a wreck. I remember 20 minutes in, I still hadn’t really said that much, because I was just kind of rambling on. I remember Joel vividly saying, “Okay, Lewis, let’s get into the content,” because I was just rambling. I was a little nervous.
Then I just blacked out. I went into content value mode where I was teaching everything I knew in the next 40 minutes. Joel kept stopping me being like, “Holy cow, you can do that? Wait a minute, you can do this? You can do this?” He was blown away. At the end I said, “Hey, guys, here’s a link. I’ve got this product. There’s nothing there right now, but in a week, I’ll do another live training like this, and I’ll do a couple of more advanced trainings.” But there was no product yet. It was just pre-selling something. I shut down the webinar and opened up my email, and there was $6,200 on my PayPal instantly.
Now, at the time, that was like I had found all the riches in the world, because I was living at my brother’s place at this time, paying 250 a month in rent. I was running around the country, doing these LinkedIn networking events, charging 50 to 100 bucks, a LinkedIn profile makeover. But I wasn’t really making much.
So, $6,200 in one hour was like, “Never again will I think about getting a job if I can do this. I’ll just do this over and over again for as long as I can.”
That was 2009.
Brian Clark: That first online money, it’s never that sweet again.
Lewis Howes: It’s never that sweet. You’re always tainted. You’re like, “Oh, man.”
Brian Clark: What cracks me up, because of how nervous you were and everything, not even talking about how great a presenter you are now with School of Greatness and beyond, but even just after that, I think in the years subsequent to that, Chris Garrett who you worked with on things, he said, “Lewis is the most natural blend of pure content and pitch.” Usually when you think of a pitch man, you think of sleazy, but he was like, “He’s so natural, people are just begging to give him money.” And I’m like, “Damn!”
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How Did You Improve Your Presentation Skills?
Brian Clark: Okay. Let’s listen to more about the work Lewis did to enhance his presentation skills.
Lewis Howes: I had done a lot of training on myself and public speaking at that time, training and watching videos and just rehearsing and practicing, because I never wanted to be a sleazy pitchman. I was like, “I’m not going to do this if it feels weird.” And Chris is also the nicest guy, because he’s the most introverted person. So, I’m sure anything more than him felt like unbelievable.
Brian Clark: He is, that is true. He is the shyest person I know.
Lewis Howes: He’s so nice though.
Brian Clark: He watches intently. If he gives a compliment like that, he means it.
Lewis Howes: It’s true. Yeah, it meant a lot. We did a course together years ago called “Shy Networking” that was for introverts on how to build relationships and get yourself out there. He was the shy introvert and I was the extrovert. We had a fun time doing that.
When Did You Realize That School of Greatness Was Your Thing?
Brian Clark: That’s cool. When did it occur to you that School of Greatness was your thing? Was it the book, the podcast first? Or what was the order there?
Lewis Howes: The podcast started 2013. I did that because after about four or five years of going on a tangent of doing webinars every single week…I mean, when I said I could do this every week for the rest of my life, I did it for years. I was creating programs and listening to my audience and just hearing the feedback of what they wanted, then I’d go create the thing they wanted. And I was just doing webinars over and over again every week.
Then I had to learn about copywriting, because we had to get people on a webinar. Then I had to learn about getting a sales page, so that people didn’t think that you were just some hack. Then I had to learn about content creation. I had to learn about building an audience. All these things I needed to learn, because I was looking to generate more sales. I studied Copyblogger many, many times for years, because you always talked about the best headlines, the best copy, all that stuff, and I had no clue.
After a while, I had built that kind of brand and business where we were creating online courses with a partner of mine at the time. And after a while, I just realized that I was outgrowing the partnership and the vision for where we were going. I kept wanting to do more of the things that I was doing now, and he wasn’t as interested in that.
So I said, “Okay, well, it’s time for me to go,” and sold the company to him. I took about six to nine months I wouldn’t say “off,” but not doing things as hard to kind of reflect and see what I really wanted to do as the next step. School of Greatness came to me as that next step, and it’s been five and a half years later, now 675 episodes and 80 million downloads.
Brian Clark: The thing that interests me is by any standard you were successful in what you were doing, right?
Lewis Howes: Sure.
Brian Clark: And compared to what? Just four years earlier when you were really struggling, and yet it didn’t align with you perfectly. Once you took that step…a lot of people would say, “I’m not leaving this partner. I’ve got a good thing going here.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, we were making great money, two and a half million a year.
Brian Clark: Yeah, and then they stay stuck and they become unhappy. But this is what’s happened to me every time I’ve made a similar decision. My income goes up astronomically even though I say I don’t care about money at that point.
But, yeah, because when you show up and you do your best work, right? I mean, to me, that’s where Lewis truly took off. When you were doing what aligned with Lewis and that was School of Greatness.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. The thing that I love, the thing that I was most excited about, people feel and see that, and then they get excited. They’re like, “Wow, Lewis is really into this. It must be something we should check out.” And I think that that’s true for anything.
When we’re living at 60, 70% of our passion and joy because we have to do something constantly and we stay there – I understand that there’s going to be years of our lives that we’re going to have to do something in order to generate an income or in order to do certain things to master skills — but when we stay there, when we have the opportunity to leave out of fear, that’s when it’s on us, and it’s our fault at that time.
I wish I could’ve been doing this 10 years ago. But I knew that I didn’t have the resources, I didn’t have the money, I didn’t have the experience, so I needed to go do that for a while.
Brian Clark: I catch myself doing that. The path you took is the path you needed to be on.
Lewis Howes: Absolutely, absolutely.
Brian Clark: Any time I have a twinge of regret that I didn’t do this earlier or something else earlier, I’m just like, “No, dude, you wouldn’t have been in the position to be the person to do this thing until you were there.”
Lewis Howes: That’s it.
The Importance of Timing
Brian Clark: So, you started the podcast in 2013, which was just before the huge explosion in podcast. Oh man, everyone who started podcasting then, I’m just like, “God, that’s just so great.” But I can’t really say anything, because when I started Copyblogger, that was that time for blogs, right?
Lewis Howes: You crushed it.
Brian Clark: Everyone has their moment.
Lewis Howes: You were selling themes like crazy.
Brian Clark: Right, yeah.
Lewis Howes: You’re the “Theme God”.
Brian Clark: I mean, we went through the financial collapse of 2008.
Lewis Howes: Crushing it.
Brian Clark: Yeah, up to that point, I had never made that much money in my life, and it kept growing.
Lewis Howes: Crazy!
Brian Clark: But it was just the right thing at the right time, and you have to look at that and be very grateful. Yes, you worked hard, but you also got lucky.
Lewis Howes: Timing is a lot. And I kind of felt that for some reason. I had seen what Pat Flynn was doing and Derek Halpern at the time, even though he stopped doing his podcast. I saw those guys launch their podcast probably in early 2012 or maybe even earlier about a year or so before me. And I was watching this. When I would talk to them, they were just like, “This is the most fun thing I’m doing, and it’s the most engaged part of my community and quality opt-ins and it just feels good.”
I’m already talking to really inspiring people every day, just one-on-one, but no one hears these conversations. And I really wish they would, because the stuff I get out of them, it blows my mind. I said, “If these guys can do this, I could probably figure this out. It can’t be that hard.” Even though I’d never done audio or technical stuff in that sense, I was just like, “I can find someone that can help me figure it out, and I’ll just create the content.”
That’s what I did. I launched it in January 2013 and right away I felt it was the right decision. It just felt good. It felt exciting. I was ready to do more. I couldn’t wait to grow and to get better as an interviewer.
Every time I was meeting someone, they were so grateful for me interviewing them and the feedback they were getting. It was like this win, win, win experience. I was learning and finding joy. My guest was loving it. I was building a relationship with the guests who were very influential. My audience was enjoying it, and getting value and I was just like, “Okay, let me just keep doing this.”
I did it every week for a year and it just kept growing and growing. But really in year two, year three, when the whole Serial and kind of podcasting had its moment, when Serial came on and some other big podcast came on, that’s when it really started to take off, because also it was getting into cars and the iPhones were just being more accessible to listening to audio because it wasn’t really before. It just kind of hit the right timing. I just happened to be at the top of the feed and was already known for having this podcast for a while. So more and more people wanted to get on my show.
Yeah, it continues to grow, which is powerful.
Brian Clark: Well, you do have a great voice and you’re well-spoken and curious, I think is the key.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I’m very curious.
Brian Clark: But isn’t it cool? I mean, my favorite part of doing this podcast, besides catching up with my own friends which is weird, my “Everything is content” rule — “Hey, let’s record this.” But also just talking to interesting people that you might not have the opportunity otherwise. And not necessarily the star power that you’ve got, just entrepreneurs who have a perspective on life. You can learn from anyone if you keep your curiosity about you.
Lewis Howes: That’s it.
Tell Us About Your Facebook Show
Brian Clark: So, you rode the podcasting thing and then School of Greatness became bigger than the sum of the parts. I mean, we’ve got the book, we’ve got events.
Lewis Howes: Courses, everything, yeah.
Brian Clark: What’s interesting to me, and I think where this conversation is headed, is you caught a wave with podcasting. I see you leading the very edge with a new form of online video. So, let’s talk about the Facebook show.
Lewis Howes: The beginning of last year, let’s call it a year and a half, almost two years ago actually, I just felt like, “Okay, everyone’s got a podcast.” There are more and more podcasts coming up. There are over 600,000 podcasts out there. And I was just like, “Okay, I got ahead of this early, I’m going to keep growing this, because this is my bread and butter.”
You didn’t get away from the themes even though there were tons of theme companies. You kept growing it and innovating in your own way. And I said, “I’m going to keep growing this, keep innovating it. Get better at it, do everything I can, but I also want to leverage this into other things.”
I started my annual event, because so many people said they wanted to meet people in person. I said, “Let me go back to the roots of my LinkedIn networking days and bring people in person who are part of a larger community.” Then I said, “Okay, this is great, but what’s going to really differentiate my brand, my message from everyone else’s?” I was getting other people saying, “Let’s do a TV show on traditional cable network.” I shot a few pilots. Being here in LA, I’m getting different opportunities and offers a lot. I shot a few of these pilots that I thought something would happen a few years ago. Nothing happened.
It just ended up becoming a waste of my time and energy. Taking these meetings, spending all these days filming, nothing happened. I said, “What if I could partner with the largest network in the world and put my content in front of them? Where they wanted to feature it, where they were excited about it, and they had control over who saw it?”
That’s when I took the approach of, “Man, I would really love to do a talk show type of format where I’m helping people improve their life and have Facebook really get behind it.” Now, this was maybe six months after Facebook opened up the whole video format. Maybe a year after this, where I saw, “Wow, video is taking off on Facebook.” They were just opening up. Every fan page was getting millions of views on any of the video they put out and getting all the reach.
I said, “Huh, I’m seeing what they’re doing. They want more video and they’re probably going to do original content at some point.” Just like YouTube did for YouTube creators, like Netflix, Hulu, etc. I was thinking, “Why wouldn’t they?” So I pitched it to a friend of mine who’s an executive producer Scooter Braun, who wanted me to do a TV show. I said, “I’d rather not do a TV show. I’d rather sell something to Facebook and let them do…”
Brian Clark: How do I know Scooter Braun, that name?
Lewis Howes: Scooter Braun’s the guy who discovered Justin Bieber.
Brian Clark: That’s right.
Lewis Howes: And built arguably one of the biggest singing brands and music brands of our generation. He also represents Ariana Grande.
Brian Clark: All the new artists come out of social media now. It’s become a joke, like SoundCloud rappers, but my teenage daughter knows all of them.
Lewis Howes: SoundCloud.
Brian Clark: Exactly.
Lewis Howes: So, he represents Ariana Grande, who’s a global superstar. Kanye West, some people might have heard that name and a lot of other big artists.
He comes to me and says, “Let’s do a TV show.” I said, “I’m down, but I just really believe we should go to where the biggest audience is. Not go on a cable network, where they’ve got to buy media on other channels and they’ve got to buy billboards to let people know about it. Go to where the audience is, put the content in front of them.”
Brian Clark: Isn’t that fascinating, because everything is flipped? Instead of aspiring to be on cable or broadcast — and cable and broadcast have to use social to get a viewership anyway.
Lewis Howes: That’s it, yeah.
What Is the Format of the Show?
Brian Clark: You’re seeing the inevitable happening in real time and you are smartly participating in it. Tell us a little bit about the format of the show. I mean, is it typical?
Lewis Howes: The show is an 18-minute format and we’ve got a live studio audience. So, it’s a full production.
Brian Clark: You’re Oprah.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I mean, I’m trying to be.
Brian Clark: You’re the Oprah of Facebook.
Lewis Howes: Exactly. The goal is to create those types of conversations similar to what Oprah did, but in a different format and a different, more intimate kind of town hall setting. I can touch the front row of people. It’s like they’re right there.
We’re engaging with the audience and having people ask questions from the audience. We’re coaching, we’re bringing on experts, we’re covering vulnerable, powerful, inspiring topics like the Power of Forgiveness, like Money Mindset, talking about happiness and all these different things. We’re talking about Me Too and Time’s Up. We’re diving into topics, creating a powerful format within 18 to 20 minutes per episode, and we’re releasing them on Facebook Watch.
At the time of us recording this, it just came out a day ago. It’s just had a million views, 5,500 shares and thousands of comments. It’s interesting, because I didn’t know what to expect. It’s really hard to get people to stop on Facebook and watch a two-minute video or a one-minute video, let alone to sit down and watch an 18-minute video.
I’m grateful that it’s got a million views and tons of shares and lots of big pages are sharing and all that stuff. But to really go viral and get the 10, 20 million views, you’ve got to really get a lot of people sharing things on Facebook. And it’s hard to get a long video to go viral.
I’m excited about it, because they’ve maybe bought a couple dozen original shows. So I’m one of the first people that they’ve got a show with. They’ve got big celebrities with shows. They’ve got Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, who’s got his own show. They’ve got Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s wife, and me. It’s like I’m trying to fit in and into the ecosystem of what Facebook is looking to create — more positive, inspiring content to give back to the community. I’m one day in right now looking to figure out where my lane can be, what my space can be. How I can be different than everyone else doing content and add value to the global community?
That’s been my mission: how do we reach 100 million people every single week with positive information, with positive entertainment, with tools to help people break through the different challenges that they may have in their life, or the insecurities, or the fears from their relationships or career or things like that?
It’s an interesting experiment. I’m excited about it. It’s a challenge, because as you know, running my podcast I have complete control. I have control about when something goes out, how it’s produced, the questions I ask. But having a partner where I have a production company and Facebook executives who want something in their way, I’ve got to give up some control. Still my vision, but I’ve got to make other people happy. It’s like publishing a book with a publisher. You’ve got to give and take and I’m not used to that. I’m used to doing everything on my own, the way I want it.
It’s a new experience to kind of give and take, find the win-win, and make sure everyone’s happy. And that’s where we’re at.
Brian Clark: Yeah, we’re friends on Facebook, but I just realized that I need to follow your big important page.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, Inspiring Life.
Brian Clark: The Lewis Howes page.
Lewis Howes: Lewis Howes page and the Inspiring Life page.
How Does Production Happen?
Brian Clark: This set is really cool. I mean, this is as nice as…
Lewis Howes: It’s a real show.
Brian Clark: …any production set for a talk show. Where do you actually produce this and how does that happen? Do you have to handle production? Does Facebook contribute or only distribute?
Lewis Howes: I’m the executive producer and the host. For me, I said I want to be hands-on in everything. I’m not just a talent that’s getting a talent fee. I wanted to be completely involved. It’s my vision, I sold the project, etc. with Scooter Braun.
I met with eight or nine different production companies, and then I found the one that I believed could do the best job and that believed in my vision. And then we hired them. Facebook and myself, we said, “Okay, these are the ones, we’re going to go with it.”
We filmed it all in New York City. We built out a whole set. There’s a great designer who designed the whole set. It’s all built from scratch. We had a vision, I had a vision for having a live studio audience. I wanted it to be intimate, I wanted it to be close, I wanted us to be able to get in and get messy with each other.
It was kind of just putting it all together. Here’s the thing, we had one hour to practice the episode. Then we had an hour break and went right into the first episode. Throughout this, we’re figuring out what is working, what’s not working, how we can make it better. We edit all that stuff out so you can’t really tell. But for us, there are a lot of things that we tried and should have tried or could have done differently or things that worked really well. But we’re figuring it all out in literally five days to shoot everything.
For me, I look at this as an incredible experiment that we learned a ton, and we’re going to learn a ton about what’s working, what people like within the first five episodes that come out. They come out once a week for five weeks. We’re going to get a lot of feedback, and the goal is that Facebook will see the value of it, they’ll love the results and they’ll want to pick it up for another season or multiple seasons. And that’s where I’m at right now.
Brian Clark: It’s amazing. We can talk about this all day. Doing DIY media for the last 20 years. Again, this is the next level. And I’m so happy that it’s you.
Lewis Howes: Thank you.
How Can We Find Your Show?
Brian Clark: I’m proud to call you my friend. Let’s tell everyone how to find the show, so they can check it out, but also support it. When do you release new episodes? All that kind of thing.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, if you type in ”Inspiring Life” on your Facebook page, just in the search bar, you’ll find the fan page. It’s called “Inspiring Life with Lewis Howes”. If you follow the page, you’ll get notified when the episodes come out, which is pretty cool about the Watch pages. Every Monday at noon Eastern Time, the episode will come out. But then, it’s evergreen and you can watch it whenever you’re free.
Every Wednesday night, I’ll be doing a Live on the page. Then every Friday, we shot more content. This is the thing about traditional production as we shot this “Man on the Street” content for days. I’m excited to see how these turn out as well. We’ll have different content around each episode every single week for the next five weeks.
Brian Clark: So, you’re in LA, this is shot in New York. Do you have to go back and forth or did you knock everything out in advance?
Lewis Howes: We shot it all in a week in advance a few months back. And then we’ve been editing. This is a whole other level of production that I’d never realized. I mean, you’ve finished the shooting, and then it’s weeks and weeks of editing. Where we see a rough, then Facebook has to look at it. They give their notes that we make the edits, send it back, they give more notes until they’re happy, because they’re the network. You’ve got to make the network happy.
Brian Clark: Ain’t that a trip though?
Lewis Howes: It’s crazy. And some of the stuff we watch…
Brian Clark: No one would question why ABC has to give us their feedback. But then when you say, “Facebook has to give us their feedback,” you’re kind of like, “Wait a minute.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s crazy. I think they’re figuring out what works for them. They’re learning stuff isn’t working, some stuff is working that they’re doing. And they’re learning and growing and they’re figuring out what the audience wants as well. So I think this is an experiment for them.
My goal is that we do a good enough job that they’re like, “Yeah, we’ll order another hundred episodes,” at some point. Then we can really dial it in. I think once you get past season two or season three, they’re kind of like, “Okay, we know what you’re going to do. Send us the video when it’s done, we’ll take a look and then good to go.” I think that’s what it’ll get to.
Brian Clark: The show is called Inspiring Life with Lewis Howes. Type “Inspiring Life” into your Facebook search bar. Follow the page like I just did. At minimum, you’re going…
Lewis Howes: Share it.
Brian Clark: Yeah, share also.
Lewis Howes: Share the video.
Brian Clark: Share everything. But at minimum, you’re going to get fired up watching the content. But I would also as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or what have you, pay attention to how video is evolving in the social context. Because that’s where you might pick up some insight that goes beyond the fired up that you’ll get.
Lewis Howes: Studying.
Brian Clark: Yeah, study Lewis just in general. That is helpful.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I mean, study the video platform.
Brian Clark: No, but that’s the thing, because this is an inflection point. I don’t think that’s too bold to say.
Lewis Howes: Here’s the thing, as you know, if you’re not constantly growing and innovating in your business and brand, you can’t just live on themes 10 years ago. If you weren’t innovating in other ways and creating content in different ways, and launching a podcast network and doing all these things, your business won’t keep selling the way it is from doing the same thing that you were doing before. And I think that’s something I’ve tried to do is just constantly be innovative.
Also, what’s the next level? How can I create content on Netflix? How can I create content on Hulu, on Facebook Watch? How can I continue to evolve audio? I think as an entrepreneur that’s what I try to do is think: how can I continue building what I’ve built, but also be innovative to grow the future?
Brian Clark: And don’t be afraid to fail.
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Brian Clark: I mean, because when it’s the Wild West, you get the huge success. But if you fail, no one’s going to say anything other than…
Lewis Howes: Yeah, people forget.
Brian Clark: “Well, yeah, you tried something new. Props to you.” Yeah, and no one remembers.
Lewis Howes: Exactly.
Brian Clark: Lewis, man, thank you for the time. This is awesome. I will be tuning in, sharing and all of that good stuff. I hope to catch up with you again soon.
Lewis Howes: I appreciate you, brother. Thanks, man. Take care.