Published DateAuthorDan Sullivan and Shannon Waller
How do you know when it’s time to move on and leave behind something you’ve been doing? Business coach Dan Sullivan is ready to give up coaching one level of The Strategic Coach® Program so that he can focus on a higher level. In this episode, Shannon Waller and Dan discuss what led to this decision.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
Why Strategic Coach® decided to increase the frequency of contact with their clients during the pandemic.
Why Dan set a date to stop coaching the 10x workshops.
What the selection process to replace Dan is like.
The growth escalator that Strategic Coach created for their clients.
Why the coaching structure at Strategic Coach has been exactly the same for 33 years.
How Dan’s future is bigger at the age of 78 than it was at 48.
The parallel growth between you and your clients will create all sorts of future opportunities you can’t even imagine today.
If you’re feeling held back, or that you have to filter yourself, that’s a clue you need to change your audience.
Instead of asking clients what they need from you, ask what they want from their future.
You can create something new if you know that the time for it will be available.
Your advice is only credible to the degree that you’re willing to implement it yourself first.
You have to free yourself up in your mind in order to create new things.
When a vacuum is created, you can immediately fill it up with a new future.
You can treat your life up to this point as R&D for creating your bigger future.
The best way to free yourself up from something is to put a deadline on doing it.
Shannon Waller: Hi, Shannon Waller here and welcome to “Inside Strategic Coach” with Dan Sullivan.
Dan, just recently, this week that we’re recording, you have made a really big shift in terms of your coaching, your audience. In my mind, I’m calling it “Movin’ on up.” So I’d love to talk about that because you’ve moved from coaching 10x and Free Zone to just the Free Zone. And I’d love to know how you are thinking about that, because it’s not that you are so much reducing your schedule or anything like that, but you have a very important context and reason why you’re now only coaching Free Zone. I’d love to do a deep dive into this.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah, well, I think from Monday to Friday, a new coach took over the 10x group, an existing 10x group, a really advanced 10x group, on Monday. And I’m really appreciating what’s happened to my thinking from Monday to Friday.
So two years ago, in 2021, I could see things developing in front of me in terms of where the Free Zone clients were going. And I was looking at my schedule and my schedule was very full and it had gotten fuller during the pandemic, during the lockdown period and our move to Zoom. So I had added a lot of new coaching events, which were two-hour duration, and we added 24 new 10x two-hour, and we had already had that number for the Free Zone. And these are in-between little workshops, so someone comes for a workshop in one quarter and they come back from a full-day workshop, so I’m talking about full day workshops here, but we decided during COVID that we just had to increase the frequency and the contact with all of our clients. That was my clients, our team and other coaches increased the frequency, and it was a real gift of the lockdown period because it introduced us to a whole new way of creating value, reinforcing our relationship with our clients.
So I could see that if anything new came up that I wanted to do, there really wasn’t room in the schedule for doing anything new. So I announced about halfway through 2021, I said, “I’m putting a date on the calendar, and it’s the last day of 2022. And after that day, I’m not going to be doing any 10x workshops.” That amounted to about 10 full-day workshops a quarter, 40 a year. And then you have to take into account, there’s probably, at least for every workshop, there’s a day of preparation for that workshop. So that’d be 80 days of my time.
And I put it in the calendar, and I’ve done this before with previous jumps from, for example, the Signature to the 10x group 10 years ago. And then I just announced it and the Who Not How teams in our company just took hold of the project and that was all I had to do. There wasn’t really anything I had to do. And they began the process of, “Okay, we’re going to have to have other coaches. Who are the other coaches?” And that was a bit of a sensitive project, because we have coaches who’ve been with us for 25 years or more. Certain got selected and certain didn’t get selected. So I know that it had to be handled in a positive way, had to be handled in a transformative way. And you’re one of them, Shannon. So you made the cut, you got to go on to the playoffs.
So that was all I had to do. And then what that did is it freed up in my mind that I could create new things. And the first thing that I created was the Lifetime Extender program. Now, when I made the decision to free the time up, I didn’t know I was going to create that new program, but since I had the time, it gave me the freedom to create something new with the knowledge that the days would be available. And we started last year, so I was still very, very busy. So 2022 got busier. You analyzed my entire schedule and said that, “There’s more work to do than there is time to do the work.” And that was useful and that had a good impact on me, that meeting.
But I knew I could do it. I knew that I had the future freed-up time where I could fit this new program in. And then halfway through 2022, I got the idea for another program. Now these were not major programs like Free Zone and 10x program. These are quarterly workshops where it’s four hours or five hours, it’s optional. So it’s not a level of the Program that you’re jumping up to. But then we made it available, both with the Lifetime Extender and also the new IP Value Builder program. We’ve made it that any active Strategic Coach entrepreneur who had done at least their first workshop in their first year of the Signature Program would be eligible. And that would be a way for people who under ordinary circumstances would never have me as their coach. And then they’re around people who are very far advanced and that will spur their growth up to move on from Signature to 10x as fast as they could and then master the basics of 10x and then come to Free Zone.
So I think we’ve worked out a really good growth escalator for our clients. So that all came down to last Monday. So I did my final workshops in the month of December of 2022, and it was a very emotional and one thing that I said to everybody, I said, “I’m always encouraging you to jump to the next level, but there’s more credibility to what I’m telling you if I’m jumping to the next level and you get the full impact of my jump, and then you’re going to have to come to grips with it for yourself by watching what I’m doing.”
So on Monday, this was in Chicago, and I went in early to wish Lee Brower, who’s marvelous friend of ours. He’s longer than 25 years in the Program, and he’s been coaching for 25 years. So I wished him, I said, “Have a good one, Lee.”
And then it was weird because the doors closed and the workshop started, but I was sitting in our café in Chicago and the morning was weird, sitting there was weird because I’ve read stories of people who’ve had a limb amputated, but the sensation of having the limb is still there even though they don’t have an arm, but they can still have the sensation that they still have the arm, but the arm isn’t there.
Shannon Waller: Yes, “phantom limb syndrome.”
Dan Sullivan: Yeah, phantom limb. Well, I had a “phantom workshop” experience. But I have total trust in the coaches and I have total trust in the team that’s made this transition possible—yourself, Cathy Davis and many, many others, Program Advisors.
So by lunch and then I just joined a lot of the 10x entrepreneurs came into the café for their lunch and I was at the table, and we didn’t talk about it at all. They weren’t talking to me about the transition. I wasn’t talking to them about the transition. We were talking just as we’d normally, if I had been the coach that day, I would be sitting there talking to them.
And then in the afternoon we had a meeting with Keegan Caldwell and his team. There’s a double project here. One is that Keegan’s going to be my partner-coach on the IP Value Builder starting in March. But we are also going through Keegan’s process of now taking 33 years of intellectual property, which we’ve packaged, we’ve named, we’ve gotten registered trademarks for them. We’ve got registered copyrights. So we already have a legal basis for our intellectual property, but we want to jump as much as possible to the patent level because trademarks and copyrights protect you, but patents actually increase the asset value of your company. I felt that the vacuum that had been created in the morning immediately got filled up at 1:00 with a new future. So I’m sensing a tremendously big future.
And my future, when I look at it, I’ve got the big future with the extra 78 years. And this is happening at half-time, this is happening at the end of my first 78 years and the beginning of my next 78 years related to the Lifetime Extender. And I feel new again. I feel young again. I have sort of youthful enthusiasm and energy for this project. It’s like I can treat everything that happened during the first 78 years as R&D to get to the point where this new future is big. And I take this in my mind till age 100. So that’s in 2044. So this is the first time I’ve been able to just grasp the structure is sort of set for my next 21 years. And that felt really, really good. Something just snapped into place during this week.
But then on Tuesday, that was the prenup happened on Monday, but then I had a Free Zone workshop. Many of the members had been in the 10x workshop the day before, and we had a party at our house on the Monday night between the two workshops. And they were all happy with the day. All of our coaches have a totally different coaching style, and Lee has a very, very distinct but very, very different coaching style than I do.
It’s a test of reality that somebody else can coach the tools and people get the benefit out of it, which is it’s real. You don’t know if something’s real, if it depends upon you being there, but if somebody else can produce a transformative impact using the tools that we’ve created, there’s a jump in your sense of reality about the Program and about the tools.
And then when I started, I did a Certainty/Uncertainty in the morning, one of our great new tools. And I just said what the possibility was for this first workshop and then how I was going to be. And there’s things I’m certain about from being a coach for 49 years and coaching the Program for 33 years. There’s a lot of certainty I have about what makes a good workshop and what I said to myself, “If I get no reaction whatsoever from the 47 people who are here, I’ve got enough material to fill up the day, but I’m just going to start with the first tool and we’ll see where it goes. And if it goes in its own direction...” So we only got to one of the tools. I had four tools and we only got to one of the tools and it was a great workshop, but I felt enormously freed-up, that I no longer had to justify myself: “Now I can only go so far with this new tool because I have to think about how this is going to impact on the 10x workshops,” which were the majority of my workshops. And I was freed up from that thought I was just completely free to take this as far as it could go with the people who are my entire focus now. So that was it. And I just have been luxuriating in this feeling of freedom this weekend.
Shannon Waller: I love it.
Dan Sullivan: I just feel that I was carrying a heavy load and my schedule proved it. I mean, my schedule proved I was carrying a heavy load. No, I would say 60% of that load disappeared. I would do it. I mean I would do it forever if necessary, but because of the company we have and the teamwork we have and the quality of coaches we have, I can depart from one level and jump to the next level.
Shannon Waller: Well, and from having been there in the office on Monday, the party on Monday night and the workshop on Tuesday, the workshop, Dan was magic. And I told you this earlier, you could feel your freedom if that makes sense. You could feel your sense of just going wherever it needed to go or “wanting to go” is a better term. The conversations were so rich, you were on the smart board, which is always phenomenal because you capture these ideas and put them into something tangible and people’s brains were popping and the conversation was rich and sparked off one another. And what’s so cool about Free Zone is that it’s all about collaboration and being free from competition, but the experience in the room is what happens. And you’re a co-contributor, but so is everybody else. It’s like the playground or the sandbox just got a lot bigger, is what it feels like.
And one of the things that you said as we were kind of wrapping up at the end of the day was that, you just talked about too, you didn’t have to filter. And it was really interesting because I coached 10x on Thursday, which was phenomenal. And that comment was so useful to me because I’m like, “Aha, that’s the feeling. I don’t have to filter, I don’t have to pull back, I don’t have to restrain, I don’t have to take other things into consideration. I can just go.” I want to talk about that ‘cause I think that applies to a lot of entrepreneurs is that they’ve built-up a structure and it’s successful and it brings the revenue in, and it takes a fair bit of, I think there’s some 4C’s—commitment and courage—to develop the capability and confidence to make an up-leveling jump like this.
But the liberation that’s on the other side, the freeing-up—your free-from and freedom-to—is really powerful. And it’s inspiring, and I love how you model what you’re talking about.
So let’s talk about that, because I think a lot of entrepreneurs do sort of get trapped in their structure. And again, you’re going from coaching a larger number of workshops to fewer with a very select group, which is better suited for your Unique Ability® for where it is right now. Let’s talk about that, because I think it really applies to a lot of people, and they were talking about that in the workshop.
Dan Sullivan: It’s a great question because one of the things is that I’ve been going through a thought process since the deadline date was put on the calendar. So that freed me up, because the best way to free yourself up is to put a deadline when your freedom will actually be realized, okay? Or after that date, there’s a final date on the calendar when, after that date, you’re no longer doing any of the things that you wanted to be freed up from.
And for me, I want to create powerful thinking tools. And I suddenly realized that my 33 years of coaching, I’ll just take it back to when we started the workshop. I started almost 50 years ago, but 33 years of it, we’ve actually had workshops. So the coaching structure has been exactly the same for 33 years. And our approach to workshops has been exactly the same for 33 years.
What I realized is that that’s the structure of the workshop where I can have a collaboration with the best possible people who identify new thinking tools that I can then feed back to them. So I’m listening to their conversations, and we created the DOS model to get a handle on this, that they have dangers that need to be eliminated. They have opportunities that need to be captured, and they have strengths that need to be maximized. They need to take maximum advantage of where they’re already great. Okay.
But what I suddenly realized is that the whole notion of Free Zone collaboration actually happened the day that we started our first workshop in November of 1989. And that I’ve just been in this feedback loop for 33 years. But one of the things that’s important is that I’m at a point now where it’s not every entrepreneur’s experience that I want to have to think about. It’s just the DOS experiences, the current DOS experiences of my most advanced people, because that’ll create much more powerful tools, thinking tools, and that, in fact, I’ve had this single collaborative relationship now for 33 years and it really simplified...
And I don’t think that I would realize that I’ve got this timeless relationship with entrepreneurs that goes back to the deadline that “I’m not going to be at the advertising agency anymore. I’m going to go out and I’m going to start my business from day one.” So it’ll be 50 years in 2024. And it’s been the same relationship, it’s been the same structure of listening to entrepreneurs say where they wanted to go, and then me thinking, “Well, how did they have to think about this? How did they have to think about this growth?”
And that really showed up yesterday because, and this is another highlight of the week, I have this collaboration with Ben Hardy, and Ben’s a superb writer, and we created a lot of books, but we never created big market books where it was intended to have a big market audience.
And then through developing relationship over five years with Ben, Ben said, “I would like to take your most powerful ideas and turn them into great books.” And we have two out there working Who Not How and The Gap and The Gain. And they’ve done amazingly well. They’re best sellers on day one. They’ve just sold in the hundreds of thousands, both of them. So we got Who Not How, we’ve got The Gap and The Gain, but now we’ve got this third one and it’s the 10x Is Easier Than 2x. And you could not have gotten to this third book until you had done the first two books. You couldn’t have gotten to the second book until you did the first book. And I leave it up to Ben to identify what he thinks is the next topic that we should work on. And that’ll come sometime between now and the release of the third book in May.
But what I was noticing is that we had three hours of conversation. So we have a unique approach where Ben writes the book with a lot of input from our Coach team and a lot of input from our Coach entrepreneurs, but also a lot of input where Ben would continually interview me over the entire writing of the book and say, “Well, how do you think about this?” And then I would add dimensions to it and he would include this.
But yesterday was just a wonderful experience, because I had the full range of 50 years of coaching and I had the full range of everything we’ve done since day one of our first workshop in 1989. And I had all these concepts—everything he asked me, I was able to add other dimensions to it. But that same freedom that I felt on Monday and Tuesday really came into it. I said, “I can go anywhere with this. I simply do not have to restrain myself in any way because the purpose of this book is to attract to us entrepreneurs who they want to sign up for Strategic Coach, but they want to go through level one Signature really quickly. They want to go through 10x really quickly, because they want to get to the Free Zone level of the Program.” And this is the first time we’ve just delivered hour after hour of talking to the person who’s going to be in the Free Zone within the next five years.
Shannon Waller: I love it. And Dan, your interview, it’s added to the Audible version.
Dan Sullivan: It’s the Audible and the Audible sale, they’re a major component, because an Audible sale is a book sale.
Shannon Waller: Totally. And it’s an amazing bonus that not only do you get Ben reading the book, but then you get the kind of conversation interview with you, which is such a gift.
Dan Sullivan: Well, it was like a new book. What he does after he says, “Okay, I’ve just narrated the introduction here, so I’m going to ask you some questions.” And that would be 20 minutes. And then there’s six chapters. And so there was six of them, and then a conclusion. So it was like eight little 20-minute... And I just said all sorts of things, made all sorts of connections because I have the freedom that I can connect anything to it because I know exactly who we want to read this book.
Shannon Waller: Well, and Dan, that’s the next thing I want to talk about. And one of the things that came up in the workshop yesterday several times was people doing what they love to do and are best at their strengths, their Unique Ability. But they were getting frustrated. And I said to a couple of them, who you obviously know, and it’s like, “Actually, it’s not your Unique Ability that’s changed, it’s your audience. It’s your audience needs a change. And if you’re getting frustrated or feeling held back or that you have to filter, that is a huge clue that that’s time to up-level your audience.” And they were like, “Oh.” And that’s exactly what you’ve done.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. And there was a statement I made in the Free Zone workshop, and I said, “When you do the DOS, you’re not asking the entrepreneur. You’re not asking the client or customer,” I’m talking about the entrepreneur’s customer or client here. “Don’t ask them what they need from you. Ask them what they need from their future. And it’s your job to be alert to how their future is developing so that you can provide value to them to assist them to get to the future that they want.” And I think I’ve known this conceptually, but this week I really felt it.
So I’m not trying to make this accessible and palatable to someone who’s thinking about being an entrepreneur, or I’m not talking about it and making it accessible to someone who’s never going to be more of an entrepreneur than they already are. But this gives them comfort. This is providing them with a comfortable bed in the sauna so they can feel comfortable that they’ve chosen an entrepreneurial life, but they have no plans to have a bigger future. They have no plans to go bigger. I’m just, for the first time, talking to the most adventuresome, the most ambitious, the most creative entrepreneurs in the world.
Shannon Waller: I love it.
Dan Sullivan: I said, “This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt fully freed-up just to talk in the way that I’m talking to the people I want to talk to.”
Shannon Waller: I love it. And ‘adventuresome’ is a new word, ‘ambitious’ and ‘creative’ I’ve heard before, but adventuresome is true.
Dan Sullivan: Adventuresome is a very, yeah.
Shannon Waller: I love that. It’s one of my personal words too. So I resonate with that.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah, adventuresome.
Shannon Waller: Adventuresome.
So Dan, two things to wrap up. One of them is, so your future’s getting bigger, not smaller.
Dan Sullivan: Much bigger. Yeah. 78. My future is just incredibly bigger than it was when I was 48. That was about the third year of the workshop Program. I was 48. I had ambition, but it was in terms of can we get to 500 entrepreneurs in the program. Now it’s “What’s the impact of 10,000 of our entrepreneurs in the Program in the year 2044? And what’s their total creative impact on the world, and what’s their total asset value of the intellectual property that they’ve created?” And having these 10,000—I think it’s about 10,000. I mean, who knows?
And you can only use present realities to project into the future, but if I had projected present realities 30 years ago, it would be a different future that we’re living in right now. So you have to be open to the fact that they’re going to grow and you’re going to grow, and the parallel growth of the two of you is going to create all sorts of things that you can’t even imagine today.
So that’s a big future. And I think my health and fitness has improved enormously since I was 48. And the reason is it has to.
Shannon Waller: True, true story. And Dan, your comment, “Ask them what they need from their future,” was so... everyone wrote that down. It was in the wrap-up. It was in our wrap-up afterwards.
Dan Sullivan: Not need from their future, want from their future.
Shannon Waller:Want from their future, thank you.
Dan Sullivan: Not about what they need from their future. It’s what they want from their future.
Shannon Waller: What they want from their future. And staying current with that was a huge part of our Free Zone conversation.
So if someone is hitting a Ceiling of Complexity and is sort of inspired by this conversation, what are some steps that they can take to put this into action? And you said one already, and that is, put a timeline, put a deadline as to when you’re at the point you’re going to stop one thing and start the next.
What’s another way of thinking about that? You said a deadline, the team of Who’s, you’re aware of the sensitive nature of what had to happen in terms of the coaches. But what’s some coaching that you would give to people who are, again, as I said, hitting that ceiling and wanting to make the jump? What’s some words of wisdom there?
Dan Sullivan: Well, if you give yourself permission to say what you really want from the future, you can do this in various timeframes, but more and more in the Free Zone workshop, I’m going to be talking about my timeframe of 21 years and I’m totally committed to doing this. So I’m not asking anyone’s permission whether I can do this. This is what I’m going to do and I’m going to keep pumping out the new thinking tools that allow me to do what I want over the next 21 years.
So what I’m asking you, if you want to be a contributing member of this thing for the next 21 years, what do you want for yourself out of that journey? And I think it changes the context of how most entrepreneurs see their future, which is basically a rugged individualist future. We all have our side projects as entrepreneurs, but the big project is a collaborative project.
And I think this is the most unusual entrepreneurial context in the world. I can’t see how, if you didn’t have the build-up to this over the last 33 years of the Program and my 15 years before that, I don’t think if you didn’t have the thinking path, you could even conceive of having an economy—and I put a number on it, $15 trillion, but $15 trillion going back when I first established this, I think it was about three years ago that I established this goal.
It was 25 years, it was when I was 75. So I created a 25-year framework and I said, “What’s the big goal for you for Coach?” And I said, “It can’t be about your income. It can’t be about your profitability, your EBITDA,” if it’s measured that way. “It can’t be about your reputation, it can’t be about size of the company, it can’t be any about that. It’s ”What’s the impact of the company with everyone involved, including the entrepreneurs? What’s the impact on the world? And what would be a good measurement to say that that’s happening?” And I came up with 15... So it’s $15 trillion in 2044, but measured in, what would that be? 2019 dollars. So these are muscle-bound dollars in the future, not inflated dollars. That’d be like going back to 25 years from today, going back, which would be 1998. But what we made this year, we made it back then. Well, it’s worth a lot more than what total revenues are this year. So let’s deal in constant dollars here.
Shannon Waller: I love it.
Dan Sullivan: But then it’s real. There’s a trick that people use of inflated dollars, but they’re not the same dollar. And it’ll be the dollar. It’ll be US dollars, not Canadian dollars.
Shannon Waller: That’s good. ‘Cause it’s a lot more.
Dan Sullivan: There is a difference.
Shannon Waller: Just a slight 30%. And I think this is really powerful ‘cause if someone is looking to get freedom-from to do freedom-to and really focus on your Unique Ability audience and what they want from their future, it really does become about impact and it’s way bigger than you.
So one of the things I’m left with, so if making a bigger impact, having a much bigger, longer future and having a bigger impact, then moving on up is a necessity. And then also making sure that you’ve got the teamwork, the support, and your business to make sure that this is possible.
So this is just an inspiring conversation, Dan, that at 78, which is you’re considering midway, you are really laying out the path for your next 21, 22 years. And a lot of people are motivated and inspired by your modeling exactly what you’re talking about. So thank you.