Published DateAuthorDan Sullivan and Shannon Waller
It often happens that when an entrepreneur starts experiencing great success, they also begin experiencing new issues in their personal lives. In this episode, Dan Sullivan draws on decades of wisdom from coaching entrepreneurs to explain why this happens and what to do about it.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
Why it’s been a long time since Dan had conversations with non-entrepreneurs.
Why a successful entrepreneur’s children rarely complain.
Just how rare successful entrepreneurs are.
Why your business life is more predictable than your personal life.
How two ambitious people can get along together.
How entrepreneurs can introduce people in their personal lives to Strategic Coach® concepts.
Successful entrepreneurs have more freedom than successful employees.
The greatest inequality of income and wealth in the United States is not between families—it's within families.
A great deal of our confidence and sense of being okay comes from how things are operating in our personal lives.
Successful entrepreneurs will often have a dismissive attitude toward a less successful, non-entrepreneurial family member.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit can be viewed by others as not respecting authority.
The only way to be independent as an adult is to be an entrepreneur.
Envy and resentment from others can hinder progress.
Most people are trying to be interesting when they should be interested.
Only a small minority of people decide to be their own employers.
Most entrepreneurs make an average salary, but spend twice as much time working.
The best way to tell the truth is to tell it to the person who’s caught up in the friction.
Your personal life is a lot more central to you than your business life.
Shannon Waller: Hi, Shannon Waller here and welcome to Inside Strategic Coach with Dan Sullivan. Dan, we were talking a couple podcasts ago about one of the frustrations that a lot of entrepreneurs face, and that is that they outgrow their personal life, they outgrow their personal relationships. And I know that's a big source of friction, it's a big danger for our clientele and I want to dive into that a little bit more. Some other clients and coaches have been mentioning that to me and I think it's really topical because it's an interesting byproduct of growth and ambition.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. Well, just two things to start. One of them is that a very, very small percentage of people ever become entrepreneurs. The vast majority of individuals go to university, they go to training school, whatever it is, and they become a specialist in a particular industry, in a particular type of business, and they're employees. So, roughly speaking, that would be the vast majority of the individuals. So someone who decides not to depend upon a paycheck, someone who decides to be their own employer, is very unique and it's not increasing. When I started coaching in 1974, I looked at the statistics and the main source of knowledge on this is actually the national tax departments in the United States, Canada, Great Britain. And it's never more than 5% of the adult working population who are self-employed, technically self-employed. Among those one out of 400 is a big success. So it's about one out of 400 that makes way more money and has far, far more success than they ever could have by being employed by someone.
Dan Sullivan: The biggest difference with most entrepreneurs is they make an average salary, but they work twice the amount of time and they've got more worries than most people. So anyway, that's just the backdrop to this. So entrepreneurs are very, very unusual creatures.
Shannon Waller: And successful entrepreneurs, even more-
Dan Sullivan: Are very rare, unique creatures. And in our Strategic Coach organization, we have three types of sales activities. I call it the “get them in sales team,” “the keep them in sales team,” and “the get them back sales team.” Okay. So there's three big things. So that is that we want new registrations all the time. And the other thing is we want great renewals, that people do one year or two years. And I have 40 right now who are more than 30 years in Coach. They're beyond 30 years when they started—some of them may have come in and gone out—and that's the point of the third team is when they get out, they notice that things get complicated again, they don't have that quarterly complete checkup where they think through things completely. And we're constantly encourage them, come on back. We're always creating new tools. It's not the same old Program that you went through in your mind before. This year is a banner year for Strategic Coach, we call them “out clients,” we stay in touch with them and they're coming back. I mean, this is all time greatest and because of the COVID interruption.
Dan Sullivan: Anyway, I want to talk about the second sales team, the keep them in sales team, because we have example after example of entrepreneurs coming in and just having a great first year in the Program. They come back every quarter and say, “I'm making such progress.” And they get to the end of the first year and they don't renew into the second year. We have a team and they're called Program Advisors. And their job is to keep people in the Program and to get the out clients back in the Program. And they talk about this, “I just don't understand it. I just don't understand why they're having such a great year and they stop doing it.” And I said, “Well, it has nothing to do with their business. They've created enormous friction in their personal life because they're now succeeding in a way that is totally different from what's happening to their closest friends, to their family members, to their spouse, to their children.” Actually children are the last ones to complain about this because people get a lot more money when they're in Strategic Coach and they get a lot more free time. So, children are not the big complainers here. But there's these tensions growing up that they're outgrowing their personal world.
Dan Sullivan: This is very, very serious emotional area of life. Your personal life is a lot more central to you than your business life. In business, there's a great deal of predictability about your entrepreneurial career. There's a process, there's a system, there's structures. You have teamwork, goals that you share in common. And there's a culture that grows up. It's very, very simple, your business life compared to your personal life. Your personal life is dealing with dozens of different things and different personalities and they're not equal to each other. And yet a great deal of our confidence and our sense of things being okay really comes from how things are operating in our personal life. And some of it is the most serious issue of it all and it's their marriage.
Dan Sullivan: Whenever I notice that entrepreneurs are making a great deal of progress and then they stop making progress and not always do they drop out of the Program, they just stop making progress. Say, “Yeah, it's really complicated right now.” It's never complicated because of the business, it's complicated in the relationship between their business success and their marriage. Our clients generally, the marriage is not recent, it may be a 10, 15 year marriage. So I say, “Well first of all, let's really identify what the real issue.” So I'll talk to them and I said, “When do you want to resolve this? One way or another it's got to be resolved. I'm not saying that you have to do this, I'm saying you're going to do this. One way or another you're going to resolve this. So my question of you is, if it's three years from now and it's not resolved, is that okay with you?” And they say, “No.” I said, “If it's two years from now and it's not resolved, is that okay with you?” And they say, “No,” then I get them down to a year, then I get them down to six months, so I get them down to 90 days and say, “So what are you going to do now? It's got to be resolved.”
Dan Sullivan: And they said, “Well, where do I start?” And I said, “Well, first of all, by telling the truth.” [laughs] This is a big one. This is a big one. You can have it with the family you grew up in with your siblings. I mean you can have lifetime friends that go back to your teenage years, back to your childhood days. And I said, “You have to tell the truth about this and the best way to tell the truth is to tell the truth to the person that is caught up in the friction.”
Shannon Waller: Now, Dan, does it always go one way or the other? Is there a way to bring people along with the growth and ambition or do we always have to leave them behind? Definitely marriages, but it's also, as you mentioned, siblings, and I know people talk about their high school friends and it's really the conversations that change, isn't it? It's like there's different, who do you want to hang around with, who do you want to spend time with? So does it have to always end in some kind of breakup or something or not seeing people anymore? What are the options? That's what I want to know.
Dan Sullivan: Break up or break through.
Shannon Waller: There you go.
Dan Sullivan: And it can't happen just from one side, it has to happen from both sides. In other words, having gone through a practice marriage, as I call it, that was just totally clear. And I wasn't very skillful in those days, we're going back 45 years here. But I could just tell that we were going like this.
Shannon Waller: Yeah. So you started off one of you on one corner and one of your other on a [inaudible 00:09:00]-
Dan Sullivan: No, you actually started off where you were crossing and it looked like you had a lot of common ground.
Shannon Waller: And then you both headed off in opposite directions.
Dan Sullivan: And it's generally not two ambitions, it's generally a powerful ambition with a no ambition.
Shannon Waller: Right. Yes. Interesting.
Dan Sullivan: Two ambitious people can get along just fine. Two ambitious people, there's no problem with it. They just have to work out time structures, they have to work out responsibilities. It's suddenly powerful ambition with no ambition. I mean, the ambition is to keep things the way they are. I've been through it. I've been through it with friends. It's very, very interesting now when I look at my entire social circle, and this is after close to 50 years of doing what I'm doing and the growth of our company and the entire nature of my entire social universe—because there's a lot of people involved—is that they're all entrepreneurs or spouses of entrepreneurs or children of entrepreneurs. I didn't set out with that as a goal, but it's naturally because there's just no feel for what you're in a conversation and the other people in the discussion just have no feel for what your life is. So naturally you have to be talk about the way their life is, which is the same as it was 10 years ago.
Shannon Waller: Painful but true.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. I mean I have people who say, “Boy, it's been a long time. I haven't seen you for a long time.” And I said, “Anything new? Anything change?” And they said, “No, just going [inaudible 00:10:43].” That's why there hasn't been any contact for 10 years. There's nothing new.
Shannon Waller: So true.
Dan Sullivan: I'm talking from a 50 year development of an entrepreneurial sphere. So it's been a long time since I've had conversations with people who aren't entrepreneurs. All kinds of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who are just making the first breakthrough in their life. Entrepreneurs who are in the billion dollar realm. But it's not about that. It's really about are they growing? Are they developing greater teamwork? Are they taking the right amount of free time that they really get rejuvenated and relaxed and do they have people in their personal life who are enormously supportive and resonant with the life that they're leading?
Shannon Waller: That term resonance is really good. And Dan, there are three words that you use to describe Coach clientele and prospective ones, that is ambitious, creative, and cooperative. And I think I want my friends in or outside of Coach to be ambitious, creative, and cooperative. Those are such good words. If you're that and I'm that, we'll have a great conversation and a great relationship. If those are missing, not so much. That's [inaudible 00:12:00]-
Dan Sullivan: And what we know, because we have team programs for team members inside the company to get a handle on entrepreneurial mindsets, how you work together in an entrepreneurial setting. We have them for the children in Coach and we have them for couples, we have for couples. So we've added a lot of different dimensions so that people can introduce the people in their personal life and their teams inside of their company to the concepts of Strategic Coach.
Shannon Waller: Dan, I want to talk about within a family, because you know, you have asked the question in workshops, “How many of you are the most successful in your family?” And pretty much-
Dan Sullivan: Every hand goes up.
Shannon Waller: Every hand goes up.
Dan Sullivan: And only the exception to that, where they're in an entrepreneurial family, where everybody's an entrepreneur.
Shannon Waller: They're the most successful, even if their other siblings are doctors or lawyers or professionals.
Dan Sullivan: They're very more successful. They have incredibly more freedom, the success in professions.
Shannon Waller: And I think that's a disparity that a lot of people kind of despair about sometimes. And you have this with your own family as well. You're sort of them and a little bit you, very separate on purpose. So talk about that because you reflect sometimes on the economic disparity amongst families, which I've always found kind of fascinating.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. Actually, there's a great deal of research in the United States that the greatest inequality of income and wealth in the United States is not between families, it's within families. You have one person in the family that just goes through the roof. You kind of wonder why it is because they've more or less grown up with the same parents, they've grown up in the same culture and everything else. But one of them just goes through the roof and there's no explaining it.
Shannon Waller: Well, just an example of that, Dan, and it's not the only example. One of my dear friends and clients, incredibly successful, lots of zeros, all the things, and has a brother who's homeless or experiencing homelessness, which is a better term. And just imagine the disparity between that. It causes obviously some hardship and consternation because trying to help him is so difficult. But we see it a lot, we see not only just you're doing better than your siblings but sometimes it's just a very dramatic spread. I think that's a real challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs.
Dan Sullivan: The truth is that it kind of bothers them like a low grade headache, and they take a lot of Advil for it. The fact is, for most of them who are really successful and they've developed an attitude towards it, and it's a dismissive attitude. But they really haven't dealt with the situation and I'm been pretty straightforward with my family members who wanted to talk about it. I said, “Look, you don't know how I got here and you don't know what I went through at the beginning.” I've gone through two bankruptcies and a divorce before I had anything that someone else would look at as success. But I knew I could never work within other people's system. I just had no ability to work within other people's system.
Dan Sullivan: I mean, it was interesting when my mother died, that was 1997, she died, so 25 years ago. My sister, who's the oldest in the family, she's the executor for the estate because she lived nearby and she really took care of my parents right up until the end. And she came across all my report cards from grades 1 through 12, I went to the same school for 12 grades. And you got two report cards a year. You got a semester, first semester or second semester. And I looked at them and the grades were for schoolwork, they were good. I'm pretty smart. But this was Catholic school. So in Catholic there's a whole other side. One of them is your chances in life, which is your actual grades. The other one is your chances in the next life, which was on the conduct side, it was called conduct.
Dan Sullivan: It wasn't every semester, but it was probably every year. There was something along the lines, has no respect for authority. It's really interesting because I never misbehaved, I never answered back, I never rebelled or anything else. But they were picking up something and I said, actually, I think they were really insightful. That I was taking in everything they were teaching as information, but I would decide whether it was any use or not. And I think that's indication of a certain entrepreneurial spirit. I'm in the system, I have to be in the system, but I'll determine what's useful about this and what's not useful. And that's my general approach to life and you can't do that in your adult life unless you're an entrepreneur—and be successful.
Shannon Waller: Ironically, I had some similar comments on my report card.
Dan Sullivan: Well, I talked to almost every entrepreneur and they had at best an indifferent relationship with their formal schooling. I won't say it was all bad, but in 33 years of doing workshops with entrepreneurs, except for one thing I've never heard any of our entrepreneurs ever talk about where they went to college, where they went to university, just nothing. Zero. There's just no mention whatsoever about that. Where in the corporate world that would be at the top of the list of medals that you wear on your chest of where you went to university. The one exception is the entrepreneurs we have that went to in the United States, and talking just about the United States, they went to West Point or they went to Annapolis or the Air Force Academy and all them talk about their experiences because after they have to put in five years in the military; education's free, but then they get five years out of you. And they talk mainly about the structures they learn and the strategies they learn. So I get a feeling that those three, and I met someone recently from the Coast Guard Academy, which is becoming more and more important. It's one of the military—marines if they become officers or that they go to the Naval Academy because it originally was part of the Navy.
Dan Sullivan: But anyway, they just have this indifferent attitude. So this starts early. I mean this for me, I think it was there in first grade, and I always had a different point of view and I wanted to be independent. And once you get to be an adult, the only way you can be independent is by being an entrepreneur. But you have to realize that others that you knew, others that you were close to aren't doing that and there's going to be a lack of resonance. You'll comprehend their world, but they won't comprehend your world.
Shannon Waller: And I think that's a really useful point, Dan, is recognizing that if you're in the 5% or actually the 4% of that group, who's-
Dan Sullivan: The 1% of the-
Shannon Waller: Exactly. Yeah. But just knowing that means you can align expectations, you can choose with whom you're going to have entrepreneurially related conversations, which I think is one reason why our workshops are so incredibly powerful is that you're like, oh my gosh, one of our clients [inaudible 00:20:03] is like, “I'm not alone on the island of misfit toys. Here's everybody else too.” And then we don't have to have those expectations from the people that we might be living with, in a family with. We can kind of accept them for who they are, hopefully they can accept us for who we are. And it doesn't have to be an acrimonious situation, is what I'm hearing. Certainly if you are closely tied to someone who has no ambition and you're very ambitious, there's going to be some friction there.
Shannon Waller: But I think just actually knowing these percentages and knowing where you sit versus where most people sit means that you're like, “Oh, trying to expect everyone to be like me is probably not realistic.” So I think there's actually some piece in there. Oh, one other thing I wanted to ask you about is, a lot of people, especially amongst families, have a lot of guilt about their success. They feel like everyone else should be able to do this as well. Why aren't they? So can you talk to entrepreneurial guilt a little bit?
Dan Sullivan: Well, actually it isn't so much guilt as they don't want to be envied.
Shannon Waller: Ooh, yes.
Dan Sullivan: They don't want to be envied. Because envy is not that the other people want what you have, they want you not to have what you have. They have no aspirations or ambitions to have what you want, but they don't want you having it either. And that's why the progress stops is that the pressure from envy, envy and resentment, there's kind of like an envy and resentment, and you're a cause for them to feel insufficient. I'm not saying that there aren't confident, ambitious people in that other world, but the way you do it as an entrepreneur is just totally different from the organizational world. The corporate world.
Dan Sullivan: I mean, the borderline people are consultants. I can pick up in about two or three minutes of talking to them, whether they're actually on the entrepreneurial side of that, where they're really growing their capabilities, or they're just a consultant but what they really want is that they would be kind of hired by the corporations that they work with and they'd like to be hired by three or four corporations, but they really want to be kind of in an employee basis in the university. So you can kind of tell them, they're always looking for a better gig where they have some security and community. But it is what it is. I mean, you are who you are, but my sense is that you shouldn't have to pay a negative emotional price for this.
Shannon Waller: Yeah. Negative emotional tax. You don't want to pay that.
Dan Sullivan: You shouldn't have to pay an emotional tax for this. It is what it is. I can't explain why I'm an entrepreneur and they can't explain why they're not entrepreneurs. I mean, we are who we are. But I tell entrepreneurs, this is going to be the toughest thing that you're going to have to deal with in becoming more successful.
Shannon Waller: So any tips for, I mean, you talked about being really straightforward with people, being honest with yourself, being honest with other people, making peace with it. Are there any other, either mindsets and/or actions people can embrace to deal with this, what can be a big point of friction?
Dan Sullivan: Well, I mean, it seems the same, but don't use your success as a weapon.
Shannon Waller: Oh, I like that.
Dan Sullivan: Don't use your success to make other people feel less than you are. Treat individuals like individuals. I mean, ask them questions about what's neat about what they're doing, what they're excited about, and everything like that. It's not hard to have a person to person conversation if you're actually interested in the other individual.
Shannon Waller: Be interested.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. Be interested. One of our coaches said, “The problem is most people are trying to be interesting, where what they should do is spend their time being interested.”
Shannon Waller: Because interested is actually interesting.
Dan Sullivan: Interested is actually engaging. Interesting is putting yourself on the pedestal.
Shannon Waller: I love that.
Shannon Waller: Dan, thank you. This is super useful. It's also super relevant. It's something that I've been hearing about. So I love that we actually took the time to do a deep dive into what is really a crucial, essential part of everyone's life, but it has some particular nuances when it comes to being an entrepreneur. So thank you.