Transcript of Interview with Craig Ballantyne
Dan: Welcome to another episode of Shoulders of Titans. This is Dan Lok and today I am very, very excited to have the privilege of bringing another industry Titan to you. We always have a lot of fun on this show, but today I can tell you we are going to have extra fun. Our special guest is not only an entrepreneur and fitness expert, but is also an author as well as a coach to other entrepreneurs around the world. Craig, welcome to the show!
Craig: Thank you so much, Dan.
Dan: Perhaps you could take us back and share a bit about your background and how you got into what you do today?
Craig: Yeah, you mentioned ‘fitness entrepreneur’ which might be a surprise to a lot of people listening; you probably don’t get too many of those on your show! I started my entrepreneurial ventures back in 1999 with my first email newsletter. I could tell you lots of funny stories about sending it to over 3,000 people via hotmail, which took me over 1 hour and 15 minutes because I sent it out manually and had no idea what I was doing. Eventually, I got a lucky break and started writing for Men’s Health magazine. That content gave me credibility and allowed me to sell my own information products, which were kind of like P90X (which most people will be familiar with on TV). However, I sold my information products through the internet and we still sell them that way today. Online sales is where I spent most of my early career, but it’s not what I focus on these days.
In 2006, I hired my first business coach and had exponential results in terms of growing my fitness business. We had 1 interesting conversation where my coach said, “what do you want your business to look like 5 years from now?” I replied and said “Tom, I would love to have a business like Early to Rise,” a website I aspired to that had been around for years and years. I therefore put together a plan to become a better speaker, trainer, coach author and more. In 2011, the successful execution of this plan allowed me to buy Early to Rise from the Founder, Mark Ford. This was 5 years, 3 months and 17 days after my coach had asked me what I wanted my business to look like.
Often when I tell that story, I get goosebumps on my arms because it sounds like something from a movie or something similar to the law of attraction. I actually call the law of attraction the ‘law of action-attraction’. You have big goals and a big vision and you take action-steps to follow (what I call) the straight line to success. You can actually achieve exactly what you want when you go about making your plans in such a way. So, buying Early to Rise allowed me to write my book, ‘The Perfect Day Formula’, which was the next step in my evolution.
Dan: I really love your idea of the ‘law of action-attraction’, because when a lot of people watch or read books like ‘The Secret’, it can be misinterpreted as a lot of sitting around, visualising and just hoping that something will fall on your lap. Quite often you come across 2 extreme types of people. One group of entrepreneurs tend to believe in the spiritual law of success, cause and effect and the law of action-attraction, whereas the other group of entrepreneurs don’t believe in those things and instead focus on their ‘Type A’ workaholic personality which is much more driven and possesses the mindset that they must do whatever it takes to get to where they need to be.
I, myself, used to be that ‘Type A’ personality, but I found I was stressed out and I definitely wasn’t following ‘The Perfect Day Formula’ at the time. I later found that when I work less, I produce greater results. What’s your take on that?
Craig: I find the same thing too. Have you ever heard of an author named Stuart Wild?
Dan: Yes, ‘The Trick to Money Is Having Some’, right?
Craig: Yes, that’s exactly the book I was going to mention! As paradoxical, counter-intuitive or even obvious as it may sound. One of my friends, Barry Dunlop, gave me that book back in 2007 when I first joined a mastermind group with Yanik Silver. It is true that you go out to hustle and grind, yet it takes a while for your efforts to snowball into success. But once the ball starts rolling, you can kind of back off and be more strategic, structured and systematic with the scaling of your business. When you do the right things, you attract the right opportunities which, in turn, bring you the greater results. If you spend your time in the weeds all day long doing millions of small things, you’re never going to get those big breakthroughs.
When Tim Ferriss was first getting popular, I remember him saying that you can go and write 100 blog posts, or you can write 1 really amazing blog post to bring you more results than all 100 mediocre blog posts put together. That seems to be along the lines of what you’re describing, Dan. You can be a workaholic, but when you take a step back as an empire builder and focus on structure and scale, you actually gain more results.
Dan: Definitely. Perhaps now you could talk to us a little bit more about Early to Rise? If people haven’t already, they should definitely subscribe to the newsletter. You can learn a tonne about marketing from doing this, because it’s not just a newsletter.
Tell us more about your business model.
Craig: The business model today is making sure that we create products to help people become wealthier. Our customers grow small businesses into big ones, going from $500,000 to $20 million in revenue within 1 year. We help these people become more productive and identify greater opportunities by delivering information in several ways: newsletters, books, advanced tool kits, workshops, coaching programmes and university courses.
Dan: Great! For those that don’t know, I actually study a lot of Mark Ford / Michael Masterson. I have all of his books and studied his copywriting course, which is how I got into copywriting in my early twenties. His work has impacted my life tremendously. Similarly with Early to Rise, I have a folder where I save all of the newsletters. I’m a big fan!
I’m curious, Craig, as to how you think marketing has changed over the years?
Craig: That’s a great question. Social selling is now so important, whereas it wasn’t before. Back in the day, you could get by as an anonymous person in a dark room with copywriting mastery, but today it is much harder to do that. People are now very skeptical about who they trust, which is why they need to see you. They need to know there’s someone behind the programme. It’s often key to use social media for effective social selling by showing real life success stories and truly engaging with your audience.
Social proof is key to success when it comes to social selling. Social proof of your work can be spread across different social media channels, bringing you the attention your product needs. Social selling is an entirely new system which we can use to sell anything from $27 fitness video programmes to $25,000 coaching programmes, one of which I sold today to one of my clients who has been on my mailing list for years and has a $850 million business. He saw the social proof of my product, not just through a sales letter, but through all these other aspects of social selling. A lot of people look down on social media, but it’s a very powerful social selling tool when you control how you use it.
Dan: I’ve never heard someone explain it like that. It’s basically like a sales letter broken into pieces with authority content and influencer articles on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, which all have to work together.
Craig: Yeah, definitely. It’s very similar to how Jeff Walker used to break down the product launch; sales letters are now being put in a series of videos and emails. Two guys who have influenced me the most in terms of my social selling are Grant Cardone, entrepreneur and sales training expert, and Bedros Keuilian, Founder of Fit Body Boot Camp, America’s fastest growing fitness franchise. Bedros gives you tonnes of behind the scenes footage of his headquarters, his family, other fitness camps and more. Similarly, Mike Koenig is very much in the internet marketing world and says you must be everywhere, all the time. That’s what social media allows you to do.
Dan: Yes and people don’t just care about what they buy, they care about who they buy from.
In terms of personal branding, how do you sell to people who are more introverted than yourself and might be concerned their personality doesn’t quite match the strength of your own personal brand?
Craig: Dan, I am so much of an introvert, you wouldn’t believe it. Years ago, I used to go to hotel seminars and when I stayed over, I would ask the hotel to put me on a low floor so I could take the stairs instead of the elevator. Isn’t that crazy? I have evolved over time, but I am still introverted. Some clients gets concerned they might be recognised at airports, so I have to tell them to slow down, they won’t be asked for autographs! People can find a lot of stuff about you online even if you’re not putting personal branding out there. If you want to make selling easier and if you want to be successful faster, it just so happens that showing people your real personality online is one of the easiest ways to get there. Instagram celebrities are one good example of how you can go from 0 to a big following. You should embrace the opportunity to build that trust factor with people as quickly as possible.
Dan: Ok, and which channels should people focus on to build that trust factor?
Craig: It’s a great idea for people to be intraspective here. Think about several factors in choosing the one bullet for the gun you’re going to start with. There are lots of platforms out there and you will eventually get the most out of them all, but let’s start with the one you know you will commit to. To figure this out, look at what you want to do, what you’re good at and what you can leverage the most. After you’ve committed to your first channel, you can expand into more channels later. It’s important to remember that, with the right technology and assistance, you can take one piece of content and put it on all of these platforms without you even touching it. Our friend, Jason Capital, taught me to take a 5 minute YouTube video and turn it into 8 different pieces of content on all platforms.
Dan: Jason Capital is actually a very good example of someone who uses social media very well to create a personal brand for himself. It’s amazing to see what it has done for him since he first started out.
I’m also curious about your relationship with Mark as your mentor. He seems quite mysterious, what is he like in person?
Craig: He’s really fantastic. I didn’t know him when he was a hard, charging young man, but that would have been very interesting! He was so wealthy he retired at the age of 39 his first time around, then he retired again when he was 50. Now, he’s semi-retired. He’s made millions in real estate and publishing but from what I understand, he was a very aggressive marketer back in the day. He’s definitely mellowed over the years. One interesting thing he does is send an email every 12 months about what he’s accomplished in the past year. He’s incredible and he really has enjoyed life in many, many ways.
Dan: Awesome, and when you took over Early to Rise, what was the transition like?
Craig: It was a rocky transition because I was going from writing short, fitness based content to writing essays of wisdom. Mark was pretty hard on me at first, encouraging me to focus on one big idea in my writing to make the essay more powerful. It took me 6 – 12 months to really get up to speed on writing these essays properly. I was so tempted to ask Mark to leave me alone, but he still pushes, encourages and challenges me in the same way to this day as he is still involved with Early to Rise as an investor. It’s very helpful, I love having conversations with him and he feels the need (as do I) to take the wisdom and expertise we built up over the years and share it with the world. We want to show people how simple success can be.
Dan: How old is Mark now?
Craig: He’s around 60ish, but he could still kick our butt! He grew up in Long Island in the 60s and 70s and really started to build his wealth from the early days.
Dan: It’s amazing, the amount he has grown throughout all areas of his life. He is a role model for me, for sure. Definitely say Hi to Mark from me and let him know he’s impacted my life a lot!
Taking a step back now, how did you come up with the concept for ‘The Perfect Day Formula’?
Craig: It was actually during the lowest part of my life. 2006 might have been a pivotal year for me because it was the year I hired my first business coach and had great business success, but because of the success, I suffered from what I call the ‘paradox of freedom’. Having the ability to work and party whenever I want meant I had severe anxiety attacks. In fact, they were so bad that I went to the emergency room twice thinking I was having a heart attack. I was very embarrassed at 30 years old to be having such a low point in my life. I then realised that I had to switch my lifestyle. I needed structure, boundaries and a better wake-up time. I needed to focus my schedule and stop checking emails. Over time, I built up new systems which I could use to coach other people.
I then started writing a book. I didn’t know how to write it properly so it took me longer than I would have liked. Eventually, I published it in 2015 and came up with a set of additional tools to help people. That’s what I’ve been focusing on doing now; helping high performers dial into their day, improve self-disciple, automatically make better decisions and gain more value from how they structure their time.
Dan: I can totally endorse Craig’s book, ‘The Perfect Day Formula’. It’s very practical, rather than being theory-based.
Can you describe to us what a ‘Perfect Day’ should look like according to your book?
Craig: I did have a ‘Perfect Day’ back in August 2013 when I was writing the book. I felt that I had accomplished so much by the end of the day; I moved towards my legacy, spent time with good people and kept my health and fitness on track. I want people to experience their own ‘Perfect Day’ where they make good progress in their business and feel that they accomplished something and didn’t just keep themselves busy with generic activity. I also want people to enjoy the finer things in life: quality time with your family, quality nutrition and quality sleep. You need to detox yourself from the digital stuff and make sure you’re not sucked into scrolling through newsfeeds. I like to say there should be a separation of work and home life. When you get home and walk into a room to greet your family or your boyfriend or girlfriend, you should be able to step away from what you just spent your day on and instead focus your presence and energy on what really matters to you.
Dan: So we create our ‘Perfect Day’ through planning and habit, rather than just letting the day go by and allowing other people to dictate our agenda?
Craig: Yes, absolutely. There are 2 types of people: reactive and proactive. Reactive people wake up late, get caught in traffic and are always trying to find time for stuff in life. Unfortunately, those people will struggle. Proactive people, on the other hand, plan their day and make time for things in life. These people are more likely to be successful.
Dan: There is a saying in your book that I really love: “structure equals freedom”. What would you say to people who don’t want to be restrained in this way and prefer to live life on their own terms?
Craig: I used to think like that in 2006. I went from being a full time personal trainer to being a full time online entrepreneur. I was resisting and rebelling against getting up early. There’s a really great quote from an author name Paulo Coelho, who wrote The Alchemist, which explains how discipline and freedom are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependant, because without discipline, we would sink into chaos.
This happened to me; I sunk into chaos because I had no discipline. But when I put the structure into place, I started having more true freedom in my life. When we tell ourselves what to do by setting up our own rules and regulations, it’s like building an iPhone with a powerful operating system which allows lots of amazing things to be done. If you do this for yourself, all of a sudden you become a high performer; you get more done, you write faster, you sell better, you become more successful and yet you still have more free time. That’s what the whole “structure equals freedom” means in terms of having success in our lives.
Dan: Very profound. Now, can you walk us through the principles within the book to help people do 1 or 2 things which will lead them to their ‘Perfect Day’?
Craig: The first thing you need to do is control your mornings as much as you can. Control what time you get up, control the first thing you do, control what you focus on and control what you put in your mind. You also control what you eat, which controls your energy levels. You control all of these things in the morning before the world starts taking away your time through distractions.
The second thing you need to do is plan ahead for all of the distractions and obstacles which are going to come into your way as the day goes on. Thinking ahead allows you to control the chaos which comes into your life. Finally, we are putting all of these rules and regulations into place to ensure we can leave work on time, so make sure you do!
Dan: I know that sometimes people don’t have a productive day and as a result, they feel guilty and take work home. It can become a very negative cycle because they feel bad about not finishing work, then when they do take it home, they feel bad they can’t spend time with their kids.
Craig: Yeah, there’s 3 things I will tell people to do at the end of each and every day in order to avoid that negative cycle. Firstly, do a ‘brain dump’ by jotting down all the thoughts from your mind onto a piece of paper. Secondly, organise the scattered thoughts into a to-do list for the next morning, highlighting the 3 most important tasks. Thirdly, when you get home and greet your family, or girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse, make sure you’re in the right mindset. That’s what Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, does. She’s a busy person, that’s how she lives her life. SHe is planned and organised so that she may spend quality time with her children.
Dan: I also want to talk to you about setting goals, which is what you talk about in one of the chapters of your book. Entrepreneurs can often be too ambitious by setting too many goals, getting distracted, failing to achieve them and feeling frustrated about it. Talk to us about your goal setting philosophy.
Craig: I’d like to refer back to Mark Ford again here. He once told me that all you need is 4 major goals coming under the categories of health, wealth, social self and personal enrichment. You’ll find that when you hit one of those big goals, that major bullseye, everything else around it falls into place through a ripple effect. If I hit the goal of going from $75,000 – $100,000 in a year, all of the smaller financial goals become possible, such as giving $1,000 to charity. Don’t dilute your goals by focusing on the small ones, always aim for the bigger ones.
Dan: Awesome. Some people might think ‘oh yeah I’ve heard that before’, but just because you know it, doesn’t mean you’re doing it. If you don’t live it, you don’t know it. You need to take these ideas and incorporate them into real life rules for yourself. This is what I love about Craig’s book, it really helps you to define your actions. I can tell you’ve put a lot of work into pulling it together!
Why don’t you walk us through the different tools you have and explain why they are important?
Craig: The most important thing to start with is creating the vision for your life and knowing where you want to get to. I like to use the analogy of a dream destination. A dream destination for most kids is Disney World, so how do you get there? You know that you have to fly to Orlando, get a rental car, find the hotel and then you arrive – it’s that simple. It’s the straight line to success we have for our dream destination. Now, let’s use the same analogy for the dream destination of our life. Back in 2006 I said I wanted a business just like Early to Rise, so I identified all the steps I needed to take in order to get there: I needed to become a better speaker, a better coach, a better trainer, I needed to help other people make more money, I need to become a better writer, and I did all of those things.
I attracted the end goal into my life with my straight line to success; I knew exactly what I needed to do. I understood the detours in life and had to say ‘no’ to them. Just like someone going to Disney World would have to tell themselves ‘don’t take this detour off this highway to some other theme park, we’re going to Disney World.’ So, that’s the most important tool and it’s in the kit. I ask 20 questions that help people get the vision and specifics out of their head and onto paper, giving them complete clarity on where they want to get to in life. That allows you to figure out the steps to get there and what you need to do within the next 90 or 30 days, including your ‘Perfect Day’.
Dan: We’re not talking about hours and hours of planning. We’re just talking about investing a little bit of time to plan out your day.
Craig: Of course, and the toolkit is a unique and holistic kit which poses questions in a way people have never seen before in order to draw out the right information, stepping stones and goals. Trust me, I put 10 years into figuring out the the perfect way to ask these questions in order to get the right information so that someone can create that perfect life and ‘Perfect Day’. It’s just making sure that you have every single one of these tools in place to accelerate your results.
I like to use an analogy to explain the effect of the kit. People who buy it often feel like they’re in an indie race car with their wheels stuck in the mud at the side of the track. But when they apply themselves to the ‘Perfect Day’ formula, I come along, lift up that car and put it on the pavement, enabling them to go 2000 miles per hour because they’re on the right surface. The kit also gets rid of all the obstacles in the way of their success.
Dan: Awesome! Now, Craig, I always ask my guests this one question, and it’s a deep question.
If you could time travel back to your earlier days and have a 10 minute conversation with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired, with the intention of saving yourself mistakes, what would you say?
Craig: First of all, I would tell myself to grow up, and grow up a lot sooner than I did. I was a young man in my early twenties a big city (Toronto), where there was a lot of temptation. I had a bit of money which ended up being wasted money. I would have got serious a little bit earlier and dialled in the last 10% of my schedule and my habits. This would have stopped me getting into trouble with anxiety and I would have achieved success much faster.
Looking back, the other big mistake I made was not hiring a coach soon enough. I waited until 2006. Financially, I could have hired a coach in 2003 because I was already having some success online. However, I’m half Scottish and half German and grew up on a farm with not a lot of money. Those 3 things combined ended up leaving me a little bit cheap. I was too cheap and too stubborn to hire a coach, but I wish I would have done it sooner because I had instant results. The return on investment was pretty much 100 to 1 within 3 months, followed by exponential results over the following years.
I also used to be a little scarce minded and I wish I would have been a bit more generosity minded. I should have been more grateful and taken more time to reflect. I did eventually get into this in 2009 and every year I improve myself as I’m always looking for personal growth. You have to get information and do things with it. Ask for feedback and then act on it.
In most cases, people don’t succeed because they lack accountability. I can give people the best advice in the world, but if there’s no one holding you accountable to actually use my advice, then it’s almost as though you don’t have the information in the first place. My improvements have only come because my coaches have been willing to have difficult conversations with me. A lot of coaches let things slide, they just want to be friends with their clients and they are afraid to highlight any mistakes.
Dan: Yes, and it doesn’t matter where you are in your career, we all need someone to hold us accountable and take us to the next level, provide a different perspective and push us. Most high achievers are leaders and it can be a challenge always telling people what to do and never being told what to do.
Craig: Absolutely. Take Mike Tyson as an example. He had no one there telling him that he couldn’t spend more money, that he shouldn’t buy the tiger and therefore he went bankrupt. Sometimes the most successful people need coaching the most. If you come from modest means, once you have a little bit of success you realise it’s way more money than you ever thought you would have. I see a lot of my clients become quite complacent because of this and I have to mentally shake them to make them realise they’re only just getting started and they need to go and have a greater impact on the world. Even if you don’t care about making more money, you have information that can help so many more people. Sometimes we all need a kick in the butt. Once you get these people back on track, you see them gain results very fast.
Dan: Great, so where can people find out more about ‘The Perfect Day Formula’?
Craig: I’d love for them to go and watch the video I made at theperfectdayformula.com about the kit. The kit ensures you get fast results in every area of your life. I really look forward to seeing people use it, get more done and send in their success stories! I can’t wait for people to share their own stories so I can hear about their journey and how the kit has influenced them, in the same way Mark Ford influenced both you and I.
Also, if you want to subscribe to Early to Rise, you can do so at earlytorise.com
Dan: Any final thoughts before we go?
Craig: I would like to say this: at the end of your life what really matters are people and experiences. We talk a lot about success, productivity and money which is all very important and has a big impact on people’s lives, but what you are really going to appreciate when you are 60, 70 or 90 are the people you spent your time with and the experiences you had. So make sure you are living life well and even if you are a ‘Type A’ person, make sure you take time to appreciate the people around you and have gratitude in your life. When you gain the right perspective, it makes you a higher performer overall.
Dan: Thank you so much for inspiring us today with your amazing stories, thoughts and ideas. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Craig: Thanks so much, Dan.