Mentorship, Life Themes, and Firing Yourself with Adam Anderson

I needed today’s conversation so much. Both this interview and the last one we release came while I was in a bit of an inflection point professionally with one of my other projects. As many of you know, I have run a few businesses. One of which was in a bit of turmoil. I’m happy to say now, that we came out the other side very well. If you want to know more about my other project, subscribe over at themeaningmovement.com. But as i said before the last episode, this felt like a case where, as the saying goes, when the student is ready the teacher appears.

And boy was I ready.

Adam Andersen has done a lot of great things. He’s starting over 20 companies, had multiple exits and written a bunch of books.

We talk about transition points, and dig deep into the concept of mentorship — something that’s really important to my life. And something that’s been instrumental in his success.


Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Adam does
  • Some of his transitions throughout his journey
  • How he lost his job
  • Why good people still get fired
  • How he got his first client
  • How to pick a mentor
  • How to properly define mentorship
  • Why mentorship shouldn’t last
  • Why it’s hard to find a great mentor
  • What Adam means by “firing yourself”
  • How Adam fired himself
  • Discovering your major life themes

Resources Mentioned:

Adam’s website

Fire Yourself, The Entrepreneurial End Game by Adam Anderson

Software Generated Transcription:

Dan

Adam, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to The Meaning Movement podcast.

Adam

Thank you so much for having me here. I am completely psyched. And, well, caffeinated, let’s have a fun time.

Dan

I love it. Likewise. Likewise. Well, the question I like to start with is, how do you begin to talk about the work that you do?

Adam

The work that I do is when someone says at a networking event, hey, what are you doing? I usually try to go as big as possible to have an interesting conversation. And I say I am putting a moonshine distillery on the moon to create an automated moonshot moonshot distribution system, and that gets the conversation going.

Dan

Is there any part of that that’s based in reality 100% true.

Adam

Because where I’m at right now, it’s been a long way to get here. I can’t dive into it, but I’m fascinated with the idea that we don’t have to destroy our planet and that we can get the resources we need from other celestial bodies in the solar system. And so when I say, wow, Dan, what we’re going to do is we’re going to create an energy event. If I go into all the details, people just stare at me like, you’re a nerd. You must be into science.

Adam

And I’m like, look, what I’m trying to do is create moonshine on the moon and send a bottle back using the water vapor from the ice in the moon and the H three in the soil of the moon to do a fission reaction. And when I say that it really gets people, the whole point is to have an interesting conversation where you learn about the other person on the other side of the table. And I find if I start off in the right kind of way, we get a better conversation.

Adam

And so I am doing that, launching April 12 and 2022. But we can dive into all but literally, it is the thing that I can tell everyone else I’m doing. And then I get to that. And they’re like, Can we just forget everything you said in the last 20 minutes and talk about how bad that ball of moonshine will probably taste? It’s just going to be horrible.

Dan

I just love moonshine on the moon. It’s, like, perfect. Yeah. What a great entry point into the conversation rather than talking science and people’s eyes glazing over because they don’t know what those words mean. Let’s just rewind a moment when you were just dreaming as a five year old thinking about what you want to do with your life. Think about making moon shine on the moon. How did we get here?

Adam

I guarantee five year old Adam was not like, it’d be a good idea. We shouldn’t manufacture moonshine on a different celestial body. No. At a young age, I was interested in all things that were fun. And wherever my brain got curious, I went after it. So I grew up in the military. And my dad was an air force. We traveled all over the world. I was exposed to all different kinds of people, all different kinds of thinking. And so at a very early age, curiosity and confidence had been bred into my DNA, and I will jump from project to project.

Adam

I will go to hangout. And it’s really my big driving force is, how do I make the world a better place? How do I move the needle 1% and encourage the next person to take up where I leave off? And that gives me the freedom to be as curious as I want with all these other folks. And so it’s gone from corporate America, a life as a consultant, starting over 20 businesses, losing a lot of those businesses, moving into building funds and really playing at a scale that my efforts have ripple effects.

Adam

And that’s kind of my guiding light is what is the thing I can do today that causes a ripple that will change something tomorrow.

Dan

I love that. Maybe just by way of finding the places to dig in. I know we have a couple of major transitions that you’ve talked about before, but just to give us just a high level overview of, like, okay, corporate America. How did you leave that job? Just give us just a quick overview of the arc. Sure.

Adam

Once upon a time.

Dan

It was far, far away.

Adam

I had just dropped out of the University of Utah because I figured College was hard, but computers were easy, and I got to work on fixing this thing called the Y Two K issue, and I take all the responsibility I deserve. As a 20 something fixed. I did my part. I said 1% of the needle. I didn’t say I was going to care the whole thing. I’m no Atlas.

Adam

I fell into this it thing and this computer thing because I grew up with computers. I always wanted to play video games and how to make the machine move faster. And so it was just the thing we did was we’re very good at computers because we wanted to use them in fun ways. And I kept struggling in College. And I just decided, this is ridiculous. After 96 credit hours, where the downhill skiing, Whitewater kayaking, snowshoot camping and wilderness survival, which I got a B minus in, by the way, trust but verify if we’re ever out in the wilderness.

Adam

Double check the Compass is all I’m saying.

Dan

Passing grade.

Adam

I passed, but I did get a whole group of people lost in Arches National Park once.And I was like.

Adam

Maybe I should stay in an office. I used what I learned there. I used the Y Two K experience, and I just started really getting into information technology and a couple of years into it, I said I was really bored to my manager, and he said, Have you heard of this thing called cybersecurity? And we actually didn’t call it Cybersecurity back then. It was too early, but I’ve spent over 20 years in cybersecurity working for Fortune five hundreds. I spent a long time as a road warrior for IBM, and I knew it was time to get off the road.

Adam

When I came home and my golden retriever looked at me dead in the eye, went over to the couch and peed all over it. I was like, oh, there’s your sign. If your golden retriever has had it, and you ignore that message, nobody can help you.

Right.

Adam

And so I decided I needed to. And I’ve always believed that you can control your environment. You can always set up an environment you can succeed in. And so it’s easy for me to jump from one thing to the other because I just set the environment up and I move into it. I’m oversimplifying it. But I decided I needed to get off the road. And so I was able to start a consulting business. And I went from one nerd being me to 21. Nerds ran that thing for about 13 years, fired myself in the middle of it and let somebody else run it.

Adam

And I’ve been in love with entrepreneurship and fixing big problems ever since.

Dan

Wow. I love it. Great overview. And what a fun. Maybe it wasn’t fun for you, but going through some of those transitions, but just a fun trajectory from working for the man to be in the man in some ways.

Adam

Literally. I am very grumpy most of the time, and I’m Super judgy. I’m like, Well, that’s not going to work.

Dan

You should work harder.

Adam

I’m embodying the man whenever possible just to try it on.

Dan

Yeah, I’m curious as you made those transitions, and I guess the one that jumps out to me the most is moving into consulting. But I’m curious from your standpoint, I guess the reason that one stands out to me, that feels like the biggest leap when I look at what you just laid out here was that the biggest one? What was the biggest one for you?

Adam

I think that you’re on to something because it was a mindset shift and a change in perspective and a change for how I thought about risk. And once I changed that, it unlocked all the other transformations down the line. But until I was able to look at that and think of risk in a different way or perceive my reality in a different way, none of these other things were open to me. And so I remember I was working for a company called Royal Dutch. Ahhole, they just merged with Del Hayes, and they’re worth a $70 billion holding company that buys and holds grocery stores.

Adam

Super sexy business, big numbers.

Dan

Though I can even wrap my mind around that number one thing about this is also recession proof.

Adam

So I was very happy to work with that company in 2008. I was very happy. I mean, people go to the grocery stores when things get tough. But they had just outsourced their it Department. And I walked to my director and I was like, hey, Paul, Where’s my career path? You don’t have a career path right now, Adam. We just outsourced this all to Eds, HP now. And I said, Well, then, can I get a letter recommendation? So I went and decided to get a different job.

Adam

And so the different job was letter recommendation to IBM. I spent three years on the road killing myself. And there was a moment in Montgomery, Alabama, where I had an 18 hours layover because of mechanical issues with the plane. And brother, I don’t know if you’ve been to Montgomery, Alabama’s, airport, but you’re not taking selfies. You’re not posting anything in that place. So I’m never going to do this again for somebody else. I’m never going to do this. But I still haven’t hit that trigger point, right?

Adam

I’m in pain. I know I want to change. I know there’s something that needs to be different, but I hadn’t reached a mindset that allowed me to act on the pain that I was in. And then I had an epiphany. Good people doing great jobs get fired. And the reason they get fired is because business is so complicated that somebody some CFO somewhere has to balance some spreadsheet with a bunch of numbers that I don’t understand. And despite that fact, I am doing a perfect job, and I’m making my company money.

Adam

I am at risk to being cut in a giant Corporation with no actual idea why. And to me, that became the most terrifying risk that I had was that people had control over my career and over my livelihood that I had no voice in. And even if I did the best job possible, I was still out of luck. I was still out of control. So when I had that moment happened, I was like, Well, logically, then I should own sales. Logically, then I should take control of all this and make sure that I don’t care if I’m ever fired because I’ll always be able to hire myself.

Adam

That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship to me is the control to hire yourself and to do the next thing. And consulting to me is just one flavor of entrepreneurship.

Dan

Yeah, I love that. Would you say that that was the major mindset shift from going like, my job is secure. To know this isn’t at all secure. It’s exactly.

Adam

It was the illusion that working with a multi billion dollar company means I have job security because they will act in a way that has my best interests at heart. And what happens is when certain bureaucracies get to a certain level, decisions have to be made for the system of that bureaucracy and not for the people in the system without malice. No one’s being intentionally cruel to Adam or Adam. What they’re doing is they’re trying to make sure they hit the profit margins necessary to protect shareholder values so they can continue to feed and to pay everybody else.

Adam

And I just didn’t have a voice in that equation. And therefore, I wanted to make my own.

Dan

Yeah, I can see that you’re in this place. Pain is rising. It is pushing you. You have this epiphany moment. You make that change, but then actually making that decision. I guess it was what I mean, then actually implementing it, putting in your notice, getting your first client like, that’s scary stuff.

Adam

Well, I did it the opposite direction. So you said, putting in your notice and then getting your first client? No, sir. I got my first client.

Dan

You’re smarter than that. I know, right?

Adam

I got my first client, and then I put in my notice, and it was just, hey, we’re paying IBM a whole lot of money, like, $250 an hour. You built this thing. You’ve been here for years. Why don’t you just go start your own consulting firm, get off the road and charge me $180 an hour. And I can justify going to a smaller contractor with your skill set. And that turned into a three and a half million dollar a year business that put over close to 40 million in revenue generated from that one conversation.

Adam

I would not have made the jump at that time if I didn’t have a mentor who encouraged me to do it and helped me derisk it by holding my hand through the process, including helping me get my first paying gig that covered my expenses.

Dan

Wow.

Adam

I don’t think any of us are self made. I don’t believe anybody here is successful because they’ve done something that no one else can do. What happens, in my opinion, is that you treat other people amazingly well and the world gets back to you. And when it’s time, doors will open and your only job is to be brave enough to step through it and wise enough to see the opportunity.

Dan

Oh, man, I feel like I don’t have tattoos. I’m not a tattoo guy, but, like, tattooed on my arm for me to look at every day.

Adam

I actually have a tattooed on my lower back, but that is a lot of words. It takes up, like, the full half of my back. That was just a lot because it’s fancy script. You don’t just put that down in time to Roman.

Dan

Oh, man, it’s the shading that gets you, brother.

Adam

Oh, my gosh.

Dan

Joking aside, though, I just love that I’m curious for people listening. Like, oh, that’s all great. And, well, you had this mentor who held your hand, and, like, how do I get that? What do I do? Yeah.

Adam

So there’s a couple of ways, and what you’ll have to decide is what works for your personality. What worked for me is I was always the guy who said, Give me something harder. Give me something more. And I could do that at the time. I thought I could do that because I was just better. But I also had a lot of free time, right? I didn’t have kids at the time. I didn’t. So you have to balance how much you go first and how much you give and how much you serve within the side of the servant leadership model.

Adam

But you take care of people, and you make sure that when you are communicating people, you pick the right mentor. I had a mentor, and his whole thing was, you’re going to help me build an Empire, and I shall be the King, and you shall be a drone and let us go.

And.

Adam

It sounded really good to somebody who was a full time employee. And we’re like, hey, we’re going to do the thing. But then I met somebody who said, no, you can do this. You have the value you don’t need, and that’s completely different. So it’s like a dating process. You really have to be self aware. You have to be willing to do things others won’t. You’ll have to do an amazing job and you have to take care of those who are around you. And while you’re doing all that, you have to have a high enough level of emotional intelligence and empathy to be able to understand the motivations of the person across the table.

Adam

Because not all mentorship is created equal, and you shouldn’t listen to everybody who has a powerful speaking voice and projects authority.

Dan

In your experience. Well, let’s just back up a minute and ask you this, how do you define mentor? What does that mean to you?

Adam

I believe in a mentor mentee relationship. I believe a mentor is somebody who’s done the thing that I want to do and is far enough along the path that they’re disconnected from where they came from, and they desperately want to have that wisdom. So I see there’s a two way street from my case. I knew how all the technology worked. I was the subject matter expert. I knew where all the bodies were buried inside of the system. And my mentor was the senior global director who had 70 people working for him.

Adam

And what he needed was me to be authentic with him. So he knew how his organization was running, and he needed me to give him good advice. And he needed me to coach up. And he then was able to return that gift by helping me understand how the executive suites work and how to do consulting because he would spend I think his budget was 100 million something, and he would buy constantly from people. So he taught me how to sell to people like him. So when you say, what is the definition of a mentorship?

Adam

It is a two way street of value. It is a peer to peer relationship with somebody who’s somewhere you want to be and has value to give to you. And you have wisdom and experience or insights and energy that you can then transfer into that person as well.

Dan

I love that visualizing and thinking as a two way street, but it’s not just like here’s this person that’s further along and they’re going to help me out, but that it goes both ways with that person in particular as well as other mentors in your life. How formal is that? Is it defined that person think of you? Did they think of themselves as your mentor or as a mentor in your life?

Adam

Yeah, they did eventually get there, but it was never spoken like I didn’t walk in and go, hey, I think it’s time for us to sign the mentorship papers. You can sign here. Here one initial, and I’ll need you to pee in this cup, right? We never did that. When I do mentor other people. I do like to make sure that I’m very forthcoming and clear with the value exchange. And I also put a time limit on it, because what people will make the mistake is that somebody is good as a mentor, and they think that’s a lifelong thing.

Adam

But honestly, we’re all on our own hero’s journey.

Dan

Right?

Adam

And when you move from one point to the next point, you need a different mentor. And so lifelong mentors are a rare thing. You can go from mentor to friend. You can do that. But as you go through your journey every couple of years, you really need to find upgraded relationships and upgraded mentorships that will take you in the direction because you today is wiser than you three years ago. And so you should trust you today and not obey the doctrines of you three years ago.

Dan

That’s really insightful. I love that. I want to just focus in on that piece that you said about being clear on the value exchange. What does that mean?

Adam

Well, so if I’m mentoring somebody, one of the things that is difficult is then I’m kind of a big deal. And I’m really intimidated. And so it’s important to me to be treated like a person and not to be put on a pedestal. And humor is a good way of disarming that I try not to be self derogatory. I used to use self deprecation to make other people feel comfortable, but I decided that wasn’t a win win for anybody. And so now what I really like to do is I like to explain to the person why I decided to mentor them.

Adam

I like to say the reason we’re talking today is because when I am sitting here in your psychological struggles as you’re trying to level up as a leader, it’s reminding me of all the things that I need to be paying attention to. So every moment I get to spend with you, you are reciprocating, training me in the things that I should be doing by me advising you on the things you should be doing. I love that, because sometimes I never want anybody to feel like they are less, and I want them to be respectful.

Adam

I have been there. I have done that. I can directly tell them, and there’s time they’re making mistakes or I should correct them. But it’s out of a point of peer to peer and equals not out of some kind of some form of inferior human being because you haven’t had these 20 years I’ve had. I think it’s super important to have that value exchange because clarity is everything. And when relationships break down, whether it’s marriage or a parent child or whatever friends is due to the unspoken expectations where I believe you should be doing this thing.

Adam

And I’ve never told you I thought you were going to help me get that next job. I thought you were going to put the thing in there, but if you don’t have clear and concise communication and laying the ground rules up front, then it’s kind of wishy washy. So I never did that with my first mentor. I feel like we just lucked out, but with the folks that I work with now, I am very clear about the value exchange because then they get to make a decision if it’s worth their time or not.

Adam

And I get to make a decision if it’s worth my time or not.

Dan

I love that that is really helpful. I think just like that piece of like when you’re investing in someone who’s where you have been in the past, like that reminder of these. I’ve never heard someone talk about it like that, and that feels really helpful. I think it also helps reframe why someone should be investing in people that are behind them, I guess in their path or whatever it might be because you actually need that you actually need them to help you be you better preach it.

Adam

I love that. Yes, the best thing you can do for your professional development is to help somebody else because it is going to remind you and it’s going to it’s all about the fundamentals, right? The fundamentals are what when and when you help somebody else with the fundamentals of whatever your craft is or whatever the exchange behind you is, you’re just making yourself better.

Dan

Yeah, that is so good. I know that there’s so much there for people. I think it challenge both to think more, intentionally, bring more intentionality to who is mentoring them and who they could be more intentional about getting mentorship, but then also, who can they be bringing along and mentoring? And so I just love all of that.

Adam

Well, I should be clear before we move on to the next fun thing we’re going to talk about is there is no rule book for this. These are merely the things that work for me and that everybody has their own permission to explore. What does that look like to them. And if it doesn’t quite look like somebody else’s stuff, but it seems to be working. Don’t break it. Keep doing it.

Dan

Yeah. I do have one rule when it comes to mentorship, and I’m glad that it does fit in your framework. I have a post about finding a mentor, but the main rule is don’t make it weird. Just because too often people think that there should be like, we’re talking about the weird contract there’s, like this ritual where you sacrifice a goat and walk in a circle. So don’t make it weird. You don’t even have to. And I think in my experience, I think a lot of people that I think of as mentors may not ever have realized they were mentoring me.

Dan

I do think that what I hear from you. And I think the challenge for me personally is to bring more intentionality and maybe actually talk about it rather than saying like, oh, man, this guy Adam, I met on this podcast interview. I learned so much from him. He’s like, I’m following his journey and reading his books and learning from him. And he’s mentoring me that’s one way. But maybe there’s an opportunity to take that to another level. The people in your life who you’re learning from to tell them and invite them to make it more serious.

Dan

I guess I think that’s the challenge I’m hearing in this part of the conversation. Yes.

Adam

I think you’re spot on. And, you know, you have multiple mentors, right? You’ve got mentors for all different ones. So what you sparked in my head as I was thinking about my current mentor. So I am chairman of the board of my cybersecurity company that we found a couple of years ago. And I immediately fired myself as a CEO. And I have called myself chairman of the board before because it looks good on LinkedIn. But I had never been an adult real chairman of the board?

Dan

Yes.

Adam

And so my mentor is a guy named Peter Norris, and he is the chair of the board for Virgin Group. So he runs Richard Branson’s 450 companies. My first call with him being like, what in the world? Why is this guy taking my call? How in the world am I going to make an equal value exchange? And what I found it was more of an energy exchange. It was he enjoyed helping. And even if there’s nothing that you’re bringing other than letting somebody experience the joy of helping, it turns out that’s a great place to start.

Adam

It is just enough to make it a good value exchange.

Dan

I love it. Yeah. An energy exchange that feels right. That’s great. Well, I want to focus in on just this idea of firing yourself. And that’s the language that you use, not just in your own journey, but in other people. You help other people with that concept. Let’s talk about, why did you fire yourself? What do you mean when you say firing yourself and take it from there. Yeah.

Adam

So I remember when I got fired from my company. Remember, I’m 100% owner. I’m 100% owner, and I’m the man to miss the legend. It’s it right. And we’re ten years into this 13 year journey. And I remember distinctly, I was in Vegas. I was in one of these crazy crappy conferences where you never see the light of day. And you drink until 02:00 a.m. And you get up for 05:00 a.m. Breakfast and you just go, go, go. And everyone’s selling, and everyone’s closing and deals are getting done.

Adam

And I was just hyper all the way. Now, at this point in time in my life, my two year old son called me Adam, not dad, because he only saw me on FaceTime. I used alcohol as a crutch. Rather than facing my emotions, I thought I could sell and drink my way out of anything. And so I partied until I couldn’t feel. And I was literally destroying everything because I had been lying to myself that my self worth came from me being excellent at a thing.

Adam

And what the truth actually was something completely different where I had value without having to produce all these other things. But I’ll dive into that in a minute. So my President and my older brother, who I had hired, came up to me in Vegas, and they say, hey, you’re destroying your life. You should stop. You’re fired, and you’re not allowed to attend any of the meetings that you have for the rest of the week. You just have to walk around.

Wow.

Adam

The good punchline is I love me too much not to pay me. So I was fine. That’s the best kind of firing you can do. But what I realized is that as soon as that happened, I started getting in shape because I had 100% free time. The company ran without me. And damn it, it ran better. That was a hit to my ego. My identity. Actually, it was a huge identity crisis because I was CEO. I got asked to the parties, I was invited to speak. I was on the cover of the magazines.

Adam

I was that. And now I wasn’t. And instead, I had to support other people doing that. And in the back of my mind, I was like, but that should be me. There was all of that unhealthy stuff that you had to work through. And then three years later, I had to go through another identity crisis when I wasn’t even the owner of anything. I was in possession of money. And it turns out, that ain’t as fun as it seems because you have no mission. But I did realize a couple of things you could fire yourself without leaving the company.

Adam

So what I actually was doing was removing myself as a bottleneck from how my companies worked. Because no matter how great you are, you will hit a maximum capacity. And for some of us, it’s more than others but eventually you will. And then when you live at that level for long enough, you will burn out and you’ll learn to resent the very people who are helping you. You’ll resent the company that’s making you money, you’ll resent the team that you built and you’ll flare out. And so what I am trying to convey to people is that before you get to burnout, it is okay to make yourself obsolete in the chosen role that you are in now and to be creative and create a new role for you based off of whatever is important to you.

Adam

And sometimes that is doing what I did, which was removing yourself totally from the company and checking in every three to six months to make sure everything was still running as long as the checks keep coming. I didn’t show up, but it could be that you love coding or you’re a great HR person and you decide I don’t love running companies. I’m going to fire myself as CEO and go be the head of development. So fire yourself is a triggering point for you to get creative and to give yourself the power to create your future roles based off of a solid self awareness of what your identity is as a person rather than what your identity is made up of the sum of all of your roles.

Adam

It’s an amazing, freeing experience when you get it right.

Dan

Yeah. It sounds like a huge I’m struggling to find the right word, like just a shift, a paradigm shift that’s better in re conceptualizing who you are, what you’re bringing to table what your relationship is to your work.

Adam

Yeah, your work, your life, your money, everything. You have the freedom to literally fire yourself from any role that you think you have to fill in my work right now, I’m helping entrepreneurs build their companies up so that they run on autopilot and they can take five months sabbaticals, and they can sell it at higher evaluations. But that’s just the canvas I’m painting on. The lessons are fine for wherever you’re at, it could be. I’m a stay at home mom and I’ve been here and the kids are about to leave.

Adam

Can I fire myself as a home provider and create something?

Dan

Absolutely.

Adam

It doesn’t matter. The thing is, the process is all the same. It’s really about giving yourself permission to reimagine your future. And by the way, that can be really hard if you haven’t done that before. Like, this is all I know. I can’t even come up with anything. So there’s a couple of fun tools that I use to try to shift that. And I remember how hard it was for me to find joy again after I sold my business because I had been grinding so hard for so long, I had forgotten what actually made me happy.

Dan

Yeah, that resonates. I get that so many places I want to go, I want to Hone in on that reimagining part, because that is an imagining the future. But before we get there and I think these are probably very related. When I think of freeing myself from any one of the many things that I do, some of which are really taxing and hard and like where I feel like I’m reaching burnout. I feel like I’m a bottleneck all those things to free yourself, though. There’s so much fear to me when I think about cutting those cords.

Adam

And I just want to hear you talk about there’s two ways you can do it the way I did it the first time where you’re like this 90 year old man who shouldn’t be driving and his grandkids take his keys.

Dan

Right.

Adam

You’ll get to a point if you have to.

Dan

Because you’re going to kill yourself otherwise or someone else.

Adam

If you have people who love you, they will come and they will take your keys from you, right?

Dan

Yeah.

Adam

That’s not what any one of us wants. The other thing is when I say fire yourself, my other thing is immediately do no harm. You don’t have to move at anyone’s pace, but your own. And often just the understanding that you are on a journey to relief is all you need to stay in the game.

Dan

No.

Adam

When I tell people to fire yourself, I say normally, it takes about two years to fully unravel a particular role that is tied into your identity, and you’ll get amazing benefits within the first six months. But to fully unwind the emotional burden, to fully unwind the identity that connects you to all of that, it is irresponsible to try to just rip that off like a bandaid. It’s far too complex. And so if you’re having a fear reaction, that’s great, because that means there’s something important there that you need to care for and to destroy without Hospice, to remove without a mourning process or allowing yourself to have Grace and empathy personally is irresponsible.

Adam

And this should take some time.

Adam

Again, there’s no wrong answer. You can be a Bull in the China shop and some people that works great, but it’s your own adventure. And don’t you dare believe you have to be on anyone’s timeline but your own.

Dan

That’s so good. And I love they use the word mourning and Grace and those words and empathy that also just really resonates with me deeply. Often people find my work when they’re at these transition points where maybe they’re retiring, maybe they’re empty nesters. Maybe they just got fired, that that transition has maybe happened on paper. But what you’re talking about resonates with my experience is that there’s a process that takes, like, even though. Yeah, sure. Maybe on paper at such and such a date, you stopped being that person or that position, you’re still letting go, and you’re still shifting internally to make space for what else might be coming next.

Dan

And if that’s a really important, that transitional period is a really important part of the process. And so for people listening just to kind of apply this, hopefully wrap some of this around to people who are listening. If you’re in one of those spaces to give yourself that permission to mourn, just to be and just to give yourself permission to take the time that you need as you’re transitioning, I think it’s just so important.

Adam

I agree with all that. You’re absolutely right.

Dan

Yeah. So going from firing yourself, making this major transition, and you mentioned, like, not knowing how to care for you, I don’t think you use the word care for yourself, but what you enjoy. And then you talked about Reimagining. I wanted to kind of the future. Let’s talk about that. I want to hear. How do you start that process?

Adam

Well, I love that you said, care for yourself. I’m going to start using that because that’s a better way of explaining it, because you’re absolutely right. In order to care for yourself, you have to rediscover yourself. And so my dad was involved with death and dying, combat stress and psychological warfare inside the US Air Force. And one of the things that he was lucky enough to do is hold the hands of over 400 people as they shuffled off the mortal coil, so to speak.

Dan

Wow.

Adam

And these conversations were priceless to him, because what he and his colleagues have found was there was only two types of people who died, those with regrets and those without. And they found a common theme in those who died without regrets. And they created a very simple little tool that is deceptively easy, but in practice requires a lot of patience with yourself. And so if you don’t mind, I’ll just share the concept real quick.

Dan

I would love it. Absolutely love it. Yeah.

Adam

So this is a practice called discovering your major life themes. And what you do is you take a piece of paper or my nerd self. I find an Excel spreadsheet. You do what you need to do, and you draw a line down the middle and on the left side, you write down things that I can remember bringing me joy. And then you just write things down like my wife is like puppies and helping people. And she was in a good place in the life. And so within, like, ten minutes, she had 2030 things.

Adam

But I was deeply depressed at that time. And I could think of absolutely nothing that made me happy, which shocked me because I thought of myself completely different. So that can happen if you’re suicidal or you are deeply depressed. It’s very difficult to plug into what’s bringing you joy right now. And so what you do is you roll back, you go back as far as you need to it’s back to high school, whatever. And you find something that brought you joy, even if it’s just one or two things, because eventually, when you get good at mining those things.

Adam

You’ll get to the point where you’ll be able to create that list of 20 or 30 things. But you haven’t exercised those muscles in a while, and so maybe you’re not good at that right now. That’s okay. You’re exactly where you are. Eventually, though, I was able to come up with a lot of things to bring me joy. On the right hand column are times you felt successful. So it’s like when I gave my Ted talk, I felt successful when I was, and then you do what we call developing a life theme.

Adam

A major life theme is when you draw a line from something that brought you joy to a time you felt successful. So I’ll give you an example with my wife. Three things that brought her joy was learning something hard, overcoming something she didn’t think she could do and teaching it to somebody else. And then she felt successful when someone said thank you. That last part is important because I don’t know if you have kids or know people with kids, but sometimes you help them. They don’t say thank you.

Adam

You don’t leave that feeling successful.

Dan

Yeah. I have three kids, five and under.

Adam

She started off as a pediatric nurse, and so it was a perfect fit for her because she was learning something hard. She was overcoming a thing that she was intimidating to her, and she was able to teach it to somebody else. And then the mothers, of course, are like, thank you. You’ve helped my baby feel better. Thank you. So she was getting thank you all over the place. But after a couple of years, it wasn’t hard and she wasn’t learning anything new. And so she was able to still teach somebody else.

Adam

I’m getting the thank you. So she was feeling successful. But she wasn’t experiencing the joy anymore because her major thing broke down. It turns out for her to live her major theme. She’s always learning something new. She’s always challenging herself. And then she’s sharing it with people who say thank you because they found value in it. And that opens up all of these really cool roles. She did cardio dance instruction for a while, and she’s just jumping into all these things and having this incredible life that’s fulfilling to her because she’s living out that major theme.

Adam

And what you find is over time. And you should do this every couple of months. And you should collect a new major theme until you reach about five or six. But as long as the 80 20 rule works here, as long as a big chunk of your life matches up with some of your major themes, you are probably living an amazing life. It doesn’t have to even be close to 100%, but these are the moments that charge you up. It’s the thing like I like to think of like a car, an electric car breaking where the actual braking still generates power for the battery.

Adam

It’s the action that you’re doing actually produces energy for yourself, because that joy and success combination is just a Dynamo of energy for your life. And it is rooted out of a sense of joy that’s authentic to you and to no other.

Dan

I love that so much. It is so good. I feel like a place where people often get tripped up is when they had a job that was really great. They would focus on something and then they got a different there was some sort of transition doing similar work, but it feels empty or broken in some way, and they don’t know why I was in this role here. And now I’m in this role here what happened. But I think what could happen is that some of what you’re talking about here and inviting us to think about in our own lives is that this theme isn’t being activated or not.

Dan

Flexing that muscle in the same way that you were at that other role, and it’s really important to dig beyond again, I think come back on paper, what you’re doing at your job and your work situation, whatever you’re focused on creating, what you’re doing on paper and what is actually you feel connected to and fulfilled in one more thought on that. Often people will find my work asking questions around calling and fulfillment and purpose and dream job. That’s a big one. They want to find their dream job.

Dan

And I’m often inviting people to Zoom out that like any one job, any one work expression, any one endeavor is too small for a man. All of what you have to bring to the table, but at its best is an opportunity to put some of it into action, which is, I think, exactly what you’re talking about with your wife and with that example. Oh, yeah. No.

Adam

I feel like we should be best friends because I agree with everything. Now I’ll give you a definition that I love. My definition of failure is being super successful at something you hate. You can be off the charts successful, and you can be getting the outside world giving you all the accolades and affirmations because you are crushing this thing and it’s slowly killing you, and you can’t leave it because you have created a trap for yourself, and that’s no way to live. Success without joy is a life of regret.

Dan

Yeah, that is so good just to keep going along that theme. And one of the questions I wanted to just kind of dig into your brain about is like, how do you in your own work as well as the work that you do with other people and the ways you help other people fire themselves and build their businesses. But you can answer both how you help people as well as personally. But how do you think about words like mission or purpose or fulfillment or calling? I know we’ve already been circling around it.

Dan

But I just want to maybe ask you just head on what comes up for you with those words.

Adam

Well, when you’re talking to somebody, I’ll tell you my mission. My mission is to eradicate cyber crime as we know it in the next 30 years and to launch 1000 entrepreneurial companies that changed the world with emotional intelligence, psychological security and servant leadership being the tools of the trade. Now I get to play inside of that, right. But I understand what I mean when I say that. And if you come down and you ask somebody what’s your vision values and goals, and can you give me a mission statement so much HR bullcraft has happened on our lives that those are triggering words.

Adam

So first you have to go whenever you’re talking to somebody about that stuff, you usually have to wait until they have some massive HR failures in their leadership skills. And then you come back and says, Why didn’t that person actually do the thing you expected them to? Well, they just don’t understand. Oh, would you like to craft some very clear messaging around what you would like to see in the world and how you want to see it?

Dan

Yeah, I do. All right.

Adam

Let’s do vision, value, goals, mission. Let’s figure out what your purpose is. Now, do you get it right? Because at the end of the day, all of these things are wonderful. When I think of someone trying to explain their purpose to me or I have another tool that I use, we don’t need to get into it right now. It’s a little more complex. It helps you build a personal identity statement, helps you understand your purpose or understands what you’re trying to do. And honestly, it’s more important to be curious than whatever kind of tool you use.

Adam

So as long as you’re curious about what your purpose, you’re probably going to discover it. So when somebody comes to me and they say they want to grow a business or someone comes to me and they’re looking for coaching or any of that, I asked them why in the world would they want to do that? And if their responses because they want to make money, then I say, okay, great. Why do you want to make money? Well, I want to make money to live comfortably. So I just keep wing them until they get to a point where it’s really uncomfortable.

Adam

And eventually they figure out what I’m doing. And I’m like, yeah, we’re going to keep going because you haven’t hit it yet. And this is if we spend an hour together with me going and why and why we’re going to get there. But not my favorite way to spend an hour, by the way. And it’s just such an intimate, personal thing. But if you can’t dig into a firm understanding of what drives you and what you want to see manifest in the world, it’s really hard to align your behaviors and your beliefs and your emotions with the end results that you’re looking for.

Adam

And so when I hear purpose and I hear mission, it’s nothing more than just a clear statement of what you want to manifest in the world, why you want to do it and how you want to go about it.

Dan

I love that clear statement of what you want to manifest in the world, why you want to do it and how you want to go about it. That’s so beautifully said. I love it. I know we’ve been coming up on our time here. I feel like we’ve only been talking 20 minutes. Oh, my gosh. No, I know. I’m like I feel like we’ve just started. We got so much good stuff here. I guess we need to start moving towards wrapping up, but I just want to hear more about what you’re up to with helping people fire themselves.

Dan

What you’re offering the world. Do you want to just share a little bit more about some of that aspect of what you’re focused on right now?

Adam

Yeah, I’ll tell you all the things. And just remember that I am particularly interested due to my mission of launching 1000 emotionally intelligent companies that a lot of the words I’m going to use are directed towards seven and eight figure or high six figure entrepreneurs, people who have gone through the multiple phases of what business is and they’re approaching the entrepreneurial Endgame, and they’re beginning to become the thing that is slowing the company’s growth or slowing the impact of the organization. So with all of that, I just created an online class that takes people through all of it called CEO to Owner, where I’m helping people stop being the CEO and surrender that role and be able to take the role of owner of an asset where they guide the people inside of their company versus the transactional work that the CEO does.

Adam

So transformational work versus transactional work. And it is an introduction to how do you begin the two year path? And I give all the secrets. As a matter of fact, I published my 6th book called Fire Yourself, and my joke is that I’ve published so many books, even my mom has stopped reading them all, and the intention is to give people a baseline of how to approach thinking about it. And so that is primarily my initial offering to the world. To say, here’s this class, there’s a lecture series here’s a book that you can explore the concepts of firing yourself and to see what it means for you.

Adam

And then for those who raise their hand and say, yes, this resonates. I’m with you. I’m turning myself in. Then we invite them into an entrepreneurial community. We call this M three, and M three helps entrepreneurs join communities. Actually, our community where we do venture based travel and we nurture each other. And the primary reason is by going on a path that is as difficult as the one that I’m outlining. But going on that path with other people with you is the difference between success and failure.

Adam

It’s very hard to do this kind of stuff in a vacuum. But if you have six or seven other guys who are also suffering and you look over and Carol is like, this sucks too. I’m having a hard time. You’re like, oh, my gosh. I thought I was the only one, right? It’s super important to have this tribe of people. And so I typically don’t coach much anymore. I get a lot more fulfillment. I get a lot more joy out of the group setting. And so I’ve decided to fire myself from the role of coach.

Adam

It’s always an upgrade, right? And so I’ve decided to create an environment that works for me. And so the way this looks and I might be going on a rabbit hole, but you got me excited now is we go places like Cabo. We go places like a couple of months ago, we did an urban escape and evasion training where we learned how to pick locks and how to lose somebody who’s tailing you and all these things and has nothing to do with business and has everything to do with building relationships with other entrepreneurs and other people who are doing great things in the world.

Adam

So that when times are tough, you have someone to call and you don’t have to explain things. You can just be like, I need your support. And okay, I’m there. And by the way, the escape innovation training. What I learned was, don’t get kidnapped. That was my punchline.

Dan

I was like, wow.

Adam

I’m just not going to be safe if I get that. So I better hire, like, a car service. And I mean, that was my takeaway. This stuff is hard. I shouldn’t get kidnapped. In summary, the new book is Fire Yourself, the entrepreneurial Endgame. The coursework is CEO to owner and that’s CEO the number two owner.

Adam

You can read all about there. And then the community is M three and no, there is no website because this is an invite only kind of thing, and we’re not trying to grow a massive group. We’re trying to handpick and slowly methodically build this thing so that when you’re hanging out with a small group of people, you really have the ability to build relationships so good.

Dan

I love it. I’ll make sure to link up to the book as well as CEO, the owner, the show notes here so people can just click right on through and follow along. I will also pick up your book myself because I know that that’s something that I need to do some work on. So thank you for everything. I feel like we could just I feel like there’s so much more for us, but another time absolutely appreciate the time you gave us here today and looking forward to staying connected yeah.

Adam

Thank you so much. It’s been a joy.

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