I’ve seen all of the videos except the one that was released the morning of our interview. I love what this series is about as I feel it speaks to the heart of pretty much every person out there. From business owners to people just starting out, you must listen to this super successful person talk about his own struggles and how he has dealt with them (although most of us thought he didn’t have any).
The "Hustle Culture"
MS: Here’s the thing; some people are major planners. They look at everything they do in life as a building, with architect plans, and they want to know exactly what it’s going to look like when it’s all said and done.
I’m not that person. For me, it works a little bit differently. What I do is watch and listen, to the marketplace, or to people in general. From there, like anybody else, I get impressions of what I should do. One of the things that I’ve noticed recently is a huge trend in people who are frustrated with the whole “hustle culture”. Work harder, work faster, work more, work 15 hours a day. If you’re not an entrepreneur who’s built a multi-million dollar business, you really haven’t lived a fulfilled life. This is causing a lot of people to be mixed- emotionally. They want to be successful, but they also want a family, they want to take their kids to school, they want date nights with their spouse.
We’ve been celebrating the hustle culture for a while, so I just thought, why don’t we celebrate the balance culture. That’s one where you don’t work 65 hours a week, but you work hard, and you work smart, but you work just as hard at being an amazing dad, an amazing person, or an amazing giver in your community.
DR: Are there any specific challenges you were facing that inspired you to do this series?
MS: You know, I don’t know that I was dealing with anything specific, but like all of us, I had to make dozens of decisions every day of where to put my attention. Do I give it to my four kids, my spouse, my friends, clients, employees, family, community? These are just a few of the places that are calling your attention and my attention. So, I’m always dealing with it, but I wouldn’t say I was stressed about it- just thinking about it.
I’ve always put family first. I fundamentally believe that no success outside of the walls of the home can make up for failure within the walls of the home. And I’ve even thought to myself that maybe because of the fact that I want to be a good husband and father, I won't be a best-selling author or a super duper speaker traveling the world, at least as much as that side of me would like. It would be nothing for me to work 12 or 14 hours a day. I would enjoy that. But there is a side of me that needs to spend time with my wife and kids- that’s important to me. There’s the balance that I have to deal with. I accept the fact that I may not be as “successful” as the world thinks I should be, but what matters the most is that my kids think, “Man, my dad is present- mentally and physically, and he’s an example of what I want to be.” If I can pull that off, then I’ve crushed it.
DR: It’s nice to hear a successful person putting some emphasis on this topic.
MS: I’ve worked with people who have dealt with depression that came from listening to so much of the “hustle speak” and comparing ourselves to others. Social media compounds this to the nth degree. We have our real life and our Facebook life. Generally speaking, for the majority, our Facebook life is this false depiction of perfection, good times, great laughs, and excellent moments. It’s not real life. Because of this, we’re in constant comparison mode.
That’s why I’m trying to bring attention to these things, even though I don’t yet have it all pieced together. I’ve always said that you can’t see where the trail goes until you start walking. So, I’ve started walking.
I will tell you that I’ve had a lot of people send me private emails, telling me this is just what they’ve needed to hear, that they’ve been struggling.
"No success outside of the walls of the home can make up for failure within the walls of the home."
DR: One of the best things I’ve ever heard is that you can’t judge outside perceptions by inside realities, which is what I’ve just heard you say. We need more people like you saying that it’s important.
What have you heard from other successful business people, like your peers?
MS: You’d be shocked. I know people who cry often, people who you would never think would. I know people who’ve had and have been on the verge of having mental breakdowns. I’ve had people tell me they are losing their families, that they are crap husbands, bad fathers.
It’s funny, we don’t like to be vulnerable- especially men. I’ve found that when I’m just being honest and opening up, people are more likely to be open about this with me.
DR: Without naming names, of course, can you paint a picture of who some of these people who are expressing these sentiments and emotions are?
MS: There’s no question that some of these people own Fortune 500 companies, some of them have been featured in magazines for their business success. I know people who are crushing it on the balance sheet, but on the life balance sheet, they’re utterly depressed. But, it’s a mix. For every person who’s trying to grow a business and barely scraping by, but is a great spouse, there is another person who is successful in business and has a terrible relationship with their spouse. I think we need to talk about what it takes to maintain both, and it’s not easy. If somebody is starting a new business, it requires a ton of time, and it does suck everything out of you. It’s easier for me to talk about balance today, then when I was starting my swimming pool company and flat broke. But that being said, there are certain things we can do to choose quality time with our family. We have a finite amount of time, is it still possible to create a great memory? Or, are you able to bring your family with you in some cases?
As you know, I experimented with that last year. I took my daughter wherever I went for three months. We spoke in Europe, Africa, Canada, and North America. She took off a semester from high school, went with me everywhere, and it was unbelievable. She talks about it every day. The only problem was that I screwed her up for life because she had to go back to school eventually! Now her whole world view is different and for the better. Now, most people wouldn’t consider doing that. I’ve heard “I wish I could take my kid with me” so many times, and I say “why not?” It’s a choice. At this point in time, your kid can go to school online and get the same education they get in a classroom.
DR: Combine that with a father who’s present and it’s a no-brainer.
MS: Exactly. What happens is as a society, especially as parents, we feel constant pressure to have our kids signed up for all of these activities. So, you get one kid in ballet, one in soccer, one in softball, kids signed more than one activity, and all that happens is parents end up driving their kids around constantly. There’s no real quality time- but everyone is engaged, everyone is involved in these uplifting activities. But yet, you don’t see families becoming more connected because of it.
What we had to do as a family is limit our children to one activity to a semester. Beyond that, my wife turns into a taxi driver, we have to do dinners on the fly, and we aren’t together, really having quality moments.
That’s what I mean, it has to be intentional.
DR: To circle back, I want to share something that I hope will resonate with business-minded people- schedule date nights, schedule time on a calendar. There was a point in my career when I was a workaholic. I purchased season tickets to a theater with my wife, and while I was working a disgusting amount of time, I found I could break away if it was on my schedule. It worked and it helped me get out of that place. So, it may not be the healthiest thing to do, but it’s a start, and especially for people who think like I did.
Get On Track
To keep things moving, what’s the one thing, right now, that people should stop doing? And I’ll follow that with another question- what should they start doing?
- By far to stop comparing yourself to others and defining your success by those comparisons. That’s one of the biggest cancers in our society. It tears you up.
- In order to do that, the thing you do is to write down what defines success for you- personally, professionally, and spiritually. If I have a sense of those things, that’s how I can judge my own happiness.
- When I get off track, is when I decide to listen to what others think I should be doing versus what I’ve already stated I should be doing.
DR: In regards to the feeling of being overwhelmed and not being able to accomplish all the tasks that you need to each day, do you have any advice on how to prioritize, or any time saving or efficiency tips?
MS: I think one of the keys for me that I’m constantly in the mode of “Is it possible”? Is it possible that I take my kid with me? Is it possible that I visit a friend while I’m traveling? Is it possible that my wife comes with me? By asking that question often, I usually find out that the answer is yes.
I work with a lot of professional speakers, and we all travel a lot. Out of a hundred trips, I may see a spouse once. That makes me really sad. Why can’t our families travel with us? The easy answer is that they can’t, but I don’t believe that. I have a very good friend, a professional speaker named Joey Coleman. He has two children, and his son, who is three years old, has the highest status for airline miles with American. He’s three and he has Platinum Executive status. How’s that possible? It’s possible because Joey made the commitment that he wasn’t going to leave his wife and kids at home. He makes it work.
DR: I know you said that you didn’t create this video series because of specific challenges you were having, but you’re uber successful, and you’re probably already thinking about the next thing you’re doing. I want to take you back to the time when you were struggling with anxiety and self-doubt. I think it’s important to talk about, because once we hear about successful people, they’re already successful. You weren’t just an overnight success. How did you get to this place?
MS: In 2001, my two buddies started a swimming pool company, and I was their first employee. They asked if I could manage a retail pool supply store, and I agreed, because I hadn’t yet found what I really wanted to do. So a few months in, they asked if I would be a third partner in the business. Went we went through struggles with the company, and almost went bankrupt in 2009, that’s when I turned to the internet. That’s when we embraced all those things that made River Pools & Spas what it is today. If not for that, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. It’s the foundation of my entire story. It’s what made me what I am.
When I started to see that it was working, I started TheSalesLion.com. I wanted to write about the things that saved my business, so in October of 2009, I gave myself The Sales Lion as a birthday gift. For a year, no one read it, but then people started wanting me to tell my story. One of the moments that stands out was when I was asked to give a 20-minute session at this new event, called Content Marketing World. I was still so poor at the time, that it took all of my money to get a ticket to Cleveland and a hotel room for the conference. I didn’t even have money for a taxi from the airport, and I had to take the train. That was probably the best talk of my life.
DR: I was there, and it was the best talk I’ve ever heard.
MS: Because of that talk, I was able to keynote Content Marketing World the next year. Everything changed for me that day. I didn’t plan it, much like The Balance, and even though I didn’t know where I was going to go, I knew I was supposed to do it.
DR: I’m blown away, Marcus. I already knew you were accomplished, but this has been awesome. I think everyone can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we’re all where we need to be and that everything happens for a reason. Do you have any parting thoughts?
MS: Thank you. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the cycle of comparison. If you know what your priorities are, and you ask yourself if it’s possible, you’ll see that you can have more of a balance than you ever imagined and you can lead a very fulfilling life.
In 2001 and fresh out of college, Marcus Sheridan stumbled across his first business with two friends and began installing swimming pools. Nine years later, and with the help of incredible innovations through inbound and content marketing, Sheridan’s company overcame the collapse of the housing market and became one of the largest pool installers in the US and currently has the most visited swimming pool website in the world—www.RiverPoolsandSpas.com.
With such success, in late 2009, Sheridan started his sales, marketing, and personal development blog—The Sales Lion, and has since grown The Sales Lion brand to be synonymous with inbound and content marketing excellence while being featured in multiple industry publications, including the New York Times where he was referred to as a “web marketing guru.”
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