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Transcript of Interview with Dan Pena


Dan Lok: Hi this is Dan Lok and welcome to the Premier Episode of “Shoulders of Titans”. Today I have the privilege and honor of introducing you to a gentleman who’s had a huge impact in my life and the lives of millions of entrepreneurs worldwide, the 50 billion dollar man, my mentor, Mr. Dan Pena. Dan welcome to the show and thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

Dan Pena: Well it’s my pleasure and you’ve made me proud the last 10-11 years.

Dan Lok: Oh thank you and when I made my dream list of who I wanted to interview for episode number 1, you’re the only person that’s on my list. I’ve learned so much from you when it comes to business, when it comes to life. So, I’m just extremely grateful to introduce you to my following and my listeners. And for my listeners who don’t know, this is the second time I’ve interviewed Dan. The first time I interviewed Dan was back in 2004 when I was just getting started in my career. I was a young punk kid as Dan would call me. Maybe I’m still one, I don’t know.

Dan Pena: Well you’re still a kid to me; you’re still young.

Claim to Fame

Dan Lok: Yes, well Dan maybe for those who don’t know you what’s your claim to fame in business?

Dan Pena: My personal claim to fame is that I’m happily married and that I’ve got two, three successful kids. But I mean from a business point of view it’s that I took eight hundred and twenty dollars, I turned it into four hundred and fifty million dollars in about seven or eight years and a collapse in market. And that was a long time ago.

More recently I took sixty thousand dollars and turned it into one hundred million dollars in a hundred days. But the thing that I’ve been doing the last twenty two years is I’ve been coaching and mentoring high performance people and I’ve created over fifty billon dollars with my mentees in equity and in value. That’s not my money that’s their money and so we’ve created a lot a lot of people, even billionaires and we’ve got a one hundred percent track record in the seminar that I give here at the castle, and as you well know all the product items, I don’t sell products anymore.

Dan Lok: Yes

Dan Pena: I give it away free and you kindly approached me about six months ago and said Dan what I’d like to do is I’d like to put everything under one roof, so to speak.

Dan Lok: Yes

Dan Pena: And I’d like to have all your product on one site, which I will put together and I will sponsor. That came to fruition two to three months ago and we had a lot of positive response to that and instead of people having to go to Torrent to get my product they can now go to one site. Of course now all the product that’s on my site is free, so I have hundreds of pages of product and now with the site that you put up virtually everything that’s been said about me, written about me, videoed or taped about me is free on the internet. Of course the last big step in that project was your kindness of putting my stuff on the internet.

Now, part of that claim to fame, and I don’t really like to use those words, is that the pure methodology doesn’t just work for entrepreneurs but also works in business life. My most successful non-entrepreneurial mentee is a guy named Dr. Claus Clinefield who is the CEO and Chairman of Alcoa and he came to me as a middle manager at Seimans, which was the twentieth largest company in the world at the time and in seven years he became the CEO of the twentieth largest company with four hundred thousand employees and at that time about one hundred million dollars, excuse me one hundred billion dollar in revenue. So we’ve worked with entrepreneurs making them very successful, high performance people, and we’ve worked with a lot of corporate people.

Making Money

Dan Lok: Now Dan, which is more difficult, making money for yourself or helping your mentees make more money?

Dan Pena: Helping mentees make more money!

Dan Lok: And why is that?

Dan Pena: Because, you laugh because you know it’s true, because whereas I can lead you to the troff of water but I can’t make you drink it. And so the things that take my mentees six months, I maybe, I could probably do in six weeks. The things that could take my mentees four or five years I could probably do in eighteen months. Of course, I’m experienced.

I’ve had hundreds of transactions completed and I’ve done tens of billions of dollars in deals. And so, where as you have to think about, let’s see what’s the best alternative I have, and this and that, it will just come naturally to me because I’ve done it so many times. But that’s why people ask me, how come you’ve only made fifty billion dollars with your mentees?

And, I feel like slapping them in the face and saying you don’t know how fucking hard it was doing fifty billion dollars with these kids. Because it is but I get a lot of pleasure out of it just like I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing your success. I’ve been up to see you a couple times up in Vancouver and I’ve seen your career grow and prosper and it gives me a lot of pride.

Entrepreneurs Then and Now

Dan Lok: Thank you, thank you Dan. Now Dan do you think that entrepreneurs today compare to let’s say the entrepreneurs ten to twenty years ago? Do you think there’s a difference? What do you think of the young entrepreneurs today and also what do you think they need to work on the most?

Dan Pena: Ok, and I don’t think they compare for a couple reasons. Number one the internet has made everything easier and a lot of guys in your generation and younger don’t have the interpersonal skills to deal with people. All they know how to do is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc or Tweeting things. When you don’t have those interpersonal skills, those communication skills, it makes it harder.

You may find the assets but you might not find it any easier to buy the assets and you sure as heck doing find it easier to manage the assets. Whereas the kids twenty years ago, the kids in the 90’s let’s say when I started seminars in 1993. So from about 1993 to about 2003 or 2004 or just about when I met you, the kids, even though the internet was around there weren’t as many tools. They didn’t have Google Analytics, they didn’t have Google actually at the beginning and so they had to go use what I call shoe leather. They had to go and get on a plane just like you got on a plane to meet me. You know, can fly down to have breakfast with me in Los Angeles and that doesn’t happen. In fact I still have on my desk, now that I mention it that frog that you gave me, that brass frog that’s on the stone that you gave me at breakfast that day a few years ago, and I have it on my desk here.

It’s a frog because I believe you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs, you never can get tired of looking for business opportunities and so requested the kissing frogs and when Dan first met me in person that time, eleven probably twelve years ago he brought me this brass frog which was very nice and which I still have. So getting back to the kids, from fifteen to twenty years ago understood that there was more sacrifice to be made. The kids today, because of the internet think that they can get it done much faster and they look at Zuckerberg who’s done a terrific job. They look how Zuckerberg bought Instagram from some kids when it was less than two years old and it had ten or twelve employees.

They look at a lot of these examples which is true but for every one of those examples there’s millions of kids that failed and they didn’t have the Zuckerberg, Facebook kind of successes fifteen to twenty years ago. Of course there was Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and there was Allison and a couple others but they took years to build up their networks. Whereas Mark Zuckerberg whom I’ve never met, I hear he’s a bright kid did it in a relatively short period of time. And so that’s the biggest difference between them then and now.

Dan Lok: Dan does that drive you crazy when you see kids nowadays and they still complain how hard it is when you think about it compared to many years ago? I mean what’s there to complain about?

Dan Pena: Yeah it does make me crazy, you took the words right out of my mouth and in fact I was just on with a production show because I’m in the process of interviewing, not interviewing acutely negotiating two different reality shows. One in the UK and one on the US and my US production show called me to go over some ideas and this young kid, he’s about your age, he wasn’t complaining he was telling me about the difficulties he would have and none of these are difficulties. I mean what you’re describing to me now is business.

It’s not hard but the kid, and my daughter who’s going to be twenty nine in a few months she puts it best. She said her generation feels entitled. They think that they should step right out of school and make a hundred grand, they should do this or they should do that and only work thirty five hours a week. My advice to her, and she works for a fortune 500 company and she’s for a great education, she went to two great schools for degrees, is honey be the first in the office and the last to leave. And she’s got one promotion and she’s only been there about six months and she’s got a huge responsibility for a young kid, in my judgment. I don’t know if being the first in the office and the last to leave the office had enhanced that career but I know for sure it doesn’t hurt. It’s tough to find young kids that are willing to work long hours and put in the time.

I just read a little quote from Mark Cuban, the guy that owns the Mavericks, the guy that did Shark Tank and he said what the kids don’t understand is it takes a lot of fucking sacrifice. They want the Mercedes, or I don’t know if that’s what kids want but they want the Mercedes but they don’t want to work hard for it.

Importance of Communication

Dan Lok: And I remember many years ago when I went to the castle seminar. I remember one night when I was sitting in the library and you came in and we were just talking and I was just talking like, Dan can’t you just do this through email and stuff and you kind of kicked my ass for it. I remember you said, no high performance people hide behind their fucking computers and they always do face to face. And at the time it was like I didn’t quite get it but once I got onto the business world, I can see more what Dan is talking about because Dan that’s why I went on to work on my public speaking skills, my people skills because at the end of the day it’s about people.

Dan Pena: And just for you guys that may not know Dan for as long as I do, based on communication skills I won’t say are fifty times better today but they’re are at least ten or twenty times better and its because he’s practiced.

Dan Lok: Yes it’s truly I learned from all the speakers and it just gives me a huge advantage even though I do internet business but it gives me a huge advantage when I can communicate when I can speak to groups with no fear, no stage freight. I cannot emphasize that enough. So I want to thank you Dan for kicking my ass for that.

Dan Pena: Well good. And I was on one of my conference calls, a Zoom conference call yesterday with one of the guys who, and one of the benefits, the only thing that I charge for the seminar is I mentored you a year for free now and this kid who has been very successful, he’s done very, very well. He said that and English is his second language, he speaks German. He said that when he mastered his communication skills, even ten to twenty percent better, and he spoke virtually no English when I met him, he said Pandora’s Box opened up. The opportunities, even the people in Germany they thought week this guy must be an international business man because he can speak English.

Developing Communication Skills

Dan Lok: Well how does someone go about to develop their communication skills then? What’s the best way?

Dan Pena: Some of the recommendations that I give the kids is number one go out of your comfort zone and show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Ok, you’ve got to find people that have better communication skills than you. That’s number one.

Number two you can join Rotary, Caranas, etc and you can become part of their public speaking program, apart if their young management program. Number three, Dale Carnegie still gives a great course in Sales. A Sales course that I actually took thirty five years ago and Warren Buffet took it fifty years ago. Next you can join Postmasters.

Dan Lok: Yes that’s what I did.

Dan Pena: Some of the kids they go to improv, improvisation and they take, it’s like miniature acting classes where they put you in situations that are very similar to the role playing we do at the castle. And then always think before you talk. I can answer questions you give me without having to process them because one I’ve been asked them hundreds and thousands of times and number two because I have almost fifty years of experience to rely on. Don’t, you’re going to make enough mistakes out there without stepping on your dick and putting your foot in your mouth.

Think before you talk! But when you do talk, talk with great enthusiasm. I mean I’ve never seen a part time high performance person and I’ve never really seen a high performance person who wasn’t enthusiastic. Now there’s two ends of the management continuum. There’s the general patten Dan Pena end of the continuum and then there’s the politician, Colon Powell, Henry Kissinger, Claus Clinefield end of the continuum.

Most of the people that are successful at high performance Dan are not at my end of the continuum they’re at the other end of the continuum so you don’t have to be an alpha male animal to be a high performance person. But what you have to have is great communication skills and I tell people that would listen to this podcast that even if your communication skills get five percent of mine, I mean you’ll be extremely successful, you’ll be easy down the road to being a high performance person wanted to you’ll make money that you’ve got to load into trucks instead of back accounts.

Overcoming Obstacles

Dan Lok: Yes, and I can see a lot of people even the email that I got, people asking me about QOA or I’m not like Dan, he’s outrageous, he’s an Alpha male, I’m not an Alpha male. I think most of that they believe but they have a lot of objections of why this won’t work for them because they’re not Alpha male. What’s your take on that?

Dan Pena: Well my take is that they lack self-esteem and they lack self-esteem because they’ve never tried to expand their comfort zone and people especially the computer nerds I can them. If all you’re used to is communicating behind a computer screen how do you develop in any way shape, matter or form your communication skills. You’re writing emails or texting, etc and that’s no way and how do you counter that, I tell the person to step out of their comfort zone because the self-esteem is the core, rock bottom core for being a high performance person and unfortunately political correctness doesn’t teach that.

And I said in recent years political correctness is nothing more than a manifestation of a lack of self-esteem. Everyone’s so damn politically correct. Now I’m not saying that what Donald Trump said was right recently, he got thrown off NBC. I’m not saying that but Donald Trump is a guy who says what he fucking thinks ok now I bet he might have wanted to rethink that statement that he made out part of the statement but the bottom line is he is, he doesn’t pretend to be anybody else. Even though I don’t agree with all his politics I would suggest it’s not a bad person to pattern, say what you believe in, do what you say and say what you do.

For this people that have known me for my almost fifty year career they realize that at the very least I’m not going to bullshit them and I’m going to always do what I say.

Other Skills to be a Good Entrepreneur

Dan Lok: Well Dan let me ask you this question then, besides communication skills what are the skills that a good entrepreneur should have?

Dan Pena: They have to have passion. They have to have commitment. They have to have perseverance. They have to understand and those things kind of couple together, they have to know that there’s a paid price to action. Just like I quoted Mark Cuban earlier, a few minutes ago he says what the kids don’t understand is the sacrifice; there’s no free lunches. You are who you hang around with. I make the analogy if you are a twenty five year old kid that likes to go to sorts bars and will belch from drinking beer and fart in the sports bar and all your friends think it’s funny, you know you show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

I’m not telling you that you’ve got to be in the Library of Congress trading books but what I am saying is that if you’re not existing yourself to people of reasonable intellect that have big ambitions; you know I don’t personally like President Obama’s politics but the one thing I do admire him for is seeing big bodacious goals. What he said when he was an eighteen to noneteen year old college student that he was going to be the first black president that’s about forty, no thirty years ago, that was a big fucking goal.

You know since we didn’t have, it was pretty outrageous to say that but I mean unless your being around people that have big bodacious goals, unless you are being around people that think highly of themselves then it’s less likely to be a successful entrepreneur.

What I want you to be, not just an entrepreneur but I want you to be a high performance entrepreneur. My market, and people ask me Dan why isn’t your market bigger, and my market is not big because I’m only after the one tenth of a percent. One tenth of a percent, one tenth of seven billion people is seven million people. That’s my market. That’s it. And that at the very most that’s the amount of people that are going to be willing to make that sacrifice those big sacrifices that Mark Cuban eluted to.

I’ve learned after twenty two years of coaching and haven given hundreds and hundreds of seminars before I stopped giving them around the world, the last ten years I’ve only given here at the castle is that most people aren’t willing to make the sacrifices and they grossly underestimate the sacrifice. So if a young kid, and I day kid because you’re all kids to me, I’m either old enough to be the father of the ones listening to this or maybe even the grandfather in some cases, of you’re not willing to do those things then the likelihood of you being a high performance success are pretty remote.

Social Media Now and Then

Dan Lok: Dan speaking of social media or internet, cause I know like they said before like a few years ago you weren’t into all the social media, YouTube. Recently now you’re doing it. You launched your own podcast, 50 million dollar man, you have your own videos. The videos are higher quality. What’s your take on Social Media today letter say compared to a few years ago?

Dan Pena: It’s not easy but Social Media can make it much easier. I think LinkedIn is a great tool and I believe that most people, now I don’t have the basic tool, I’ve got premier tool but I mean even the basic tool is a great tool to teach out to people, high performance people. And quit surprisingly, and I’ve only been on LinkedIn and these things 3-4 years, they respond to you which is quite extraordinary if you think about it. They do. I’m not such a fan of Facebook and I don’t try to sell anything on Facebook although I’ve got about 35-38,000 whatever you call them.

Dan Lok: Likes, Followers.

Dan Pena: But I am a proponent of Twitter and LinkedIn. My favorite is LinkedIn or making contact with people but Twitter you can get your message out. It’s a great medium got communication. Just like all the sports stars and politicians, I mean even the Pope has a Twitter account. These are all great and they should be used and even on a fundamental basis they should be used.

Although I have Marketing people and Technical people who know much more about Social Media than I do, but I’m a believer, and in my case I answer everything myself because up until a year and a half, two years ago I had somebody answer for me but they weren’t answering the same way I would answer so then I took it away from them, although they were doing a good job and I answer myself. So when you something from me on Twitter other than the promotions we do for my ringtones and things like that in giving it to them to add to Twitter and for LinkedIn, the same thing. So I think they’re great. They are great tools.

Creating Wealth

Dan Lok: Well Dan from your experience from this change you made many years ago, what do you think is the best way to create massive wealth in this day and age?

Dan Pena: Well you need to find something you’re passionate about. The irrespective, whether it’s the internet, healthcare I still think the two areas you can maintain, not maintain create the most wealth are telecommunications, which is internet and I said this thirty five years ago, and healthcare. My generation doesn’t rant to get older and they don’t want to die and your generation has been raised with the idea of staying healthy, eating right, exercising, etc etc. So I still say healthcare and telecommunications, which is the internet.

Find something within the healthcare, for example I probably have two to three hundred mentees that are all involved in healthcare in different areas. We’ve got hospital administration, pharmaceuticals, and I could go on and on and on. There’s enough differentiation to stay in healthcare and for the internet which you understand better than I, I mean the internet is changing every minute. Not every week but every minute and there vast opportunities and those kids that are developing software, those kids that are developing hardware and the various things. But unless you love it, I mean if it’s not like a holiday for you every day as opposed to being a job, I mean it gets old and you’re not willing to make those sacrifices, you’re not willing to put in those long hours.

You know my wife and I just got back from Greece, we just beat the bankruptcy of Greece by a couple days but even when we were there, sailing around in the Greek Isles we were on the internet five to six hours a day. That’s the great thing about today, the Twenty First Century is you can continue to be in business and go enjoy yourself whereas for twenty five years, up until maybe eight to ten years ago I didn’t go places because I couldn’t be close to my business interests and now I can, so that’s a big difference.

So it’s still telecommunications, i.e. the internet and healthcare. Those are still the places you can get wealthy and accumulate massive wealth.

Dan Lok: It’s also very interesting as I see, I think when I first met you many years ago and compared to today I notice you’re traveling more with Sally, you’re taking more time off you’re bungee jumping, or course people see on the internet, some videos and they might think, Dan is so harsh he’s so mean, but from my perspective and I don’t know if it’s good for your reputation. But, from my perspective you actually very very kind.

Dan Pena: Well don’t attribute too much Mother Teresa but I can be very generous. Most high performance people who have generated a lot of wealth are generous. Even Donald Trump, I know some stories about Donald where his generosity would just floor you but he doesn’t advertise them. Mine are more advertised because a Sally and I support three orphanages, we support a mission in Shrielonka, we support a school in Ruwanda, we support scholarship funds in America, which I’m not patting myself on the back at ask our anything but I think you have a responsibility. I don’t think, I know you have a responsibility to give back.

My message to kids, go out and create wealth and then do good. I have not choices Gates has more choices, Jobs had more choices, Ellison had more choices, Zuckerberg has more choices because they created wealth and then they went and did good with their wealth whereas a lot of the kids bitch and moan about what should be done on the planet but they haven’t done anything themselves on the planet. Which I totally disagree with that thought concept or idea.

Life Perspective Then and Now

Dan Lok: And a lot of times I can see coming from you that it’s tough love. You do give a damn about our success and you kick our ass. Quite frankly you don’t have to do this you don’t need to do this, I can see you mentoring a bunch of kids, punk kids as you can them. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of time, energy. I’m curious Dan, how do you look at life today? How do you look at life, what do you think life is about today, thirty five years ago compared to today?

Dan Pena: Well I believe forgetting for the moment the financial crises we have, Puerto Rico is going bankrupt, Greece, etc. But there’s always something like that. In my long career there’s always been something like that and I don’t focus, and the support high performance people that I’ve had the privilege of being in business with directly or indirectly don’t focus on that in life. What they focus on is the opportunity.

Now somebody really smart is going to go to Greece and make a mega fortune based on the unfortunate thing that the banks are going through. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s called Capitalism. The biggest difference is now, I think in many ways, well not many ways, there’s more money on the planet today chasing fewer deals than ever before in my almost fifty year career. I mean if you can’t get your deal funded it’s because you haven’t tried and/or your bit looking in the right place.

I tell everybody and I have since 1993 when I did the first seminar anybody’s stupid, dufas deal can get funded. It’s a numbers game. We just had a mentee close a deal, a little deal like two million bucks. He called on twenty four financial institutions and he got twenty-one no’s and then he got four yes’s in a row and he was able to pick the best of the four. But, part of the reason he got twenty-one no’s, and if he were on this call he’d tell you this, is the first ten to fifteen of his presentations were shit.

Dan Lok: Practice.

Dan Pena: He was practicing and he was making mistakes left, right and center and then the last ten were ok and the last four to five were great and he closed four out of the five, even though he got twenty-one no’s in a row. And of course now, the confidence when you talk to him on the phone, the confidence that He’s got it’s not comparable, it’s like he just won the Superbowl or he just won the World Cup and his whole attitude’s changed.

Just as the first high performance thing I did wasn’t a deal it was when I graduated from OCS, Officers Candidate School during the Vietnam War and I became an Officer and a Gentleman, just like the movie and an act of Congress and it’s the first high performance thing I ever did. Then I realized I could compete but most of the kids that are listening to this have been trained not to take the risk. Don’t stick your neck out and you know I tell people, a turtle can’t move forward unless it sticks it’s neck out, but we’ve been taught to be in a defensive mode.

There’s a huge geometric difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. For anybody that’s ever stated a business and they did fifty thousand dollars in revenue that’s geometric growth because you started from zero. So anybody that’s ever stated a business that’s listening to this podcast and has generated revenue the first six to twelve months knows how to have geometric growth. But what happens is after you’ve done that you stop playing to win and you then begin to start playing not to lose and there’s a big, huge difference; a huge difference. It’s like trying to be a turtle and trying to move forward without sticking your head out. You can’t do it.

Success Factors

Dan Lok: Well Dan as always mention there’s some businesses that, like your said they should just turn a key there. They are not meant to be a scalable business, they’re not meant to be a big business. So Dan when you look at a business what do you look for? How do we know if we are doing the right thing or we are in the right business or we have the right business model? What do you look for?

Dan Pena: The first thing I look for is the individual. Does he have passion for it? Because I would rather have a guy that has passion for a mediocre model that we can ultimately scale with than a guy that’s got a terrific model and has no passion for it. So the first thing I look for is their passion.

The second thing I look for is ok are you first in this business model or if you’re not first are you different? The problem with the internet of there’s no barriered entry. For almost everything there’s no barriered entry and anybody, a little house wife in Banglier, India with a thousand rupee debit card can compete against you. Number one passion, number two are you first and if you’re not first are you different, is it scalable, are you filling a need.

I forget which one of the billionaires here recently said you find a business that you can help a billion people you’ll make a billion dollars. And what I see, and I’m not the internet expert, you are. What I see is people all the time, come up with an idea on the internet and they haven’t tested it, they haven’t done anything, they just think that because they like it somebody else is going to like it. The simple things for internet model, for example I mean have you split tested it, have you done this, I mean have you checked the various buttons, are your creative steps above the line or below the line.

There are all kinds of things that are simple that not everybody does. So what I do and what I suggest my kids do, let’s say they have an idea, let’s say it’s a book. You run a test for the title of the book and see if you can drive traffic to it, you don’t have the book written yet. If you drive traffic, if you, the internet doesn’t lie, if you get clicks, impressions, etc you’re not converting anything. I’m not suggesting you sell something you don’t have but if you can drive traffic to it, if you get a hundred thousand impressions or hopefully you get a million impressions you’ve got a product then go fucking hire someone to write a book.

The Niche Concept

Dan Lok: Yes, so basically to verify the concept, to challenge your own concept to see if there’s a market for it. So Dan it sounds to me that you’re not a big fan of the whole niching concept, find that little niche because you want to serve millions and millions of people.

Dan Pena: If I make ten million dollars it’s not going to change my life if I make one hundred million dollars it’s not going to change my life. Like I told the movie guy today, I said what are the chances if me making a billion, with a big B on this project and he said none. I said, that’s the point, it’s not going to change my life. Unless I make the most successful show in all of mankind I’m not making a billion dollars, right?

And the guy says no but nobody’s ever asked me that before. Well and I said that’s because you’re talking to starving talents that have got no money and so if we’re going to do it, let’s do it big. I’m not that interested in filling niche markets, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I’ve had kids come to the similar, I mean kids, kids. We had a fifteen year old kid here at the last seminar. We had three students, two twenty year olds and one fifteen year old.

The fifteen year old is the son of a guy who’s been to the seminar eleven times, one of my superstars. For them to do twenty thousand a month on the internet is a big fucking deal but I wouldn’t take a shit for twenty grand, so that’s the difference. But I’m not the market you know and making twenty grand a month when you’re a senior in high school is pretty good.

Dan Lok: It’s a life changing money for them and it’s only their first deal.

Dan Pena: Exactly and I had two kids that started with QOA when they were thirteen, one of them when they were thirteen years old and this was ten years ago. Thirteen years old and he made one hundred thousand dollars in a year. His parents told him to give it up. This last year they turned down twenty million dollars for five percent of their company.

Dan Lok: Holy Shit

Dan Pena: They turned it down.

Selecting a Market

Dan Lok: So Dan what your saying is we want to look for a business, an industry where we could be their market leader in that particular industry? We could be number one or in a few years we could be number one?

Dan Pena: Correct, if it’s not new or first, are you different but it’s got to be scalable. The great thing about Facebook is, Zuckerburg understood that if you put a billion people on Facebook that would mean he was going to have marketing power, etc., etc. You know Bill Gates said when he started he was going to put a computer in every home in America, now he wishes he had said he’d put a computer in every home in the world. That’s a whole other subject. We set our goals too low because of our own belief system blocks that we have.

It has to be scalable. It’s going to pivot, morph. It’s going to pivot. It’s going to change. Very few of these successful models end up with the same thought process that they were started with. That doesn’t make them failures, it just means that you’ve got to adapt to the marketing nuances. I don’t know if somebody’s going to replace the internet, I don’t know in my lifetime; I don’t know. But I know that it’s possible, anything’s possible.

Dan Lok: And one thing I learned from you Dan over the years is that don’t you like the high profit margin business?

Dan Pena: I like the high profit margin; I like twenty to forty percent margins. And people ask me why Dan, because we are all shitty managers.

Dan Lok: It’s true, it’s very true.

Dan Pena: Yeah we are shitty managers and when we are operating on the two, three, four, or five percent margin, I mean we have very little room to fuck up. I maybe met five world class managers in twenty two years, one of which is Claus Clinefield who is the CEO and Chairman of Alcoa, but maybe two or three others that are that good.

But most people are shitty managers. I also like for the first transaction, I like low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit means motivated seller. We want a motivated seller that’s willing to be part of the finance. In other words to take back paper; to give you a note. You don’t have to find as much equity and debt to buy your first company, if you’re buying companies. Once you have one transaction under your belt the second one gets easier, the third one gets easier, etc., etc.

Dan Lok: From my understanding over the years I’ve studied very thoroughly QLA to quantum leap advantage, correct me if I’m wrong Dan but I think to summarize what QLA is about, if to summarize it on one word, I think it’s about leverage, it’s about OP.

Dan Pena: Other people and other people’s money.

Dan Pena, The Brand

Dan Lok: Correct other people’s credibility, other people’s experience. To me that’s kind of what the whole QLA methodology is all about. I do have a Marketing question for you Dan. This will be a little bit interesting because I can see other people see you as the finance mogul, they might not see you as a Marketing person because you always talk about perception is realty. And today your name, Dan Pena it is a personal brand. What do you think of your brand first of all and how do you cultivate your own brand?

Dan Pena: If I had known I was going to be building a brand twenty two years ago I would have done some different things fifteen, eighteen years ago, but I mean it’s developed into a brand. More people know Dan Pena than they know quantum lead advantage. What my goal is, is I want to be known, a hundred years from now when I’m dead and in the ground, I want people to know (43:46 cannot understand) that a pole in the ground can grow rich, that even though I’ve helped millions now I want to have helped tens of millions by that time, hundreds of millions, whatever the number is.

Because I want to be known as the guy who memorialized, you can start with nothing, eight hundred and twenty bucks, that’s pretty close to nothing and you can build hundreds of millions and its all about the credibility that you just alluded to, the dream team and the leveraging of other people professionally and honest, moral, ethical and legal ways so their reputations accrue to you. What most people don’t understand is they’re more than willing to help you. You know people want to do business with you now Dan because they see the energy. They see that you’re willing to make the commitment; they see that you’re focused; they see all the things that I’ve described a successful high performance person. They also see you when they were younger.

Dan Lok: Yes it’s true. It’s very true. It’s like now you have your mentees and I have my little group of young mentees and its quite interesting because I follow you very closely and how you do things. And I see myself in them as well.

Dan Pena: Oh yeah and when I see these kids that have real great energy and when I see these kids that are willing to make the sacrifices I see myself from twenty five, thirty, thirty five years ago and that’s fine. The other senior people that are coming into these boards, whether I’m involved or not involved they don’t see them in me because we’re more or less the same age. But what they do is they see the young founder, the you in the deal and the see oh that’s how I was thirty years ago.

Many times they say you’re fortunate to have met Dan now, when they’re talking to somebody and I wish that I had met Dan twenty years ago. But i mean, it’s never too late. We had a sixty five year old guy here at the seminar in June last month, this month just ending and he’s just about, he’s not the oldest. The oldest we’ve had is seventy seven back in the 90’s who came with his daughter and his grand daughter. We had three generations in the same room. So, it’s never too late.

We have a hundred percent track record for the seminar and gaining success. Whether you move five years down the field towards your goals or you nice ninety yards down the field or you actually get into the goal, past the goal line, you’ve succeeded. You’ve succeeded geometrically and that’s what the seminar and the methodology and that’s what my hopes and desires are based on, to bring as many people across the goal line as I can, humanly possible.

I feel like Forest Gump in the movie, you know when he’s carrying all those people to safety and he gets the Medal of Honor and Lieutenant Dan doesn’t want to be saved. Don’t save me, leave me here to die and he still pulls him across the goal line or to safety. That’s why I think I have arthritis in my back because I’ve varied so many thousands and tens of thousands of people across the goal line over the years and I enjoy it. I get a great deal of pleasure out of seeing these people, especially the ones that subconsciously didn’t think they could become a high performance person because they’ve been told by their parents, just fit in, get a job, pay your bills, etc.

Dan Lok: And for those who are listening is true, when I went to the castle seminar, Dan never offered the one year mentoring or anything like that. He’s only doing that these last couple years I believe.

Dan Pena: Since 2005, is the first time I did it.

The Mentoring Experience

Dan Lok: I mean that’s just invaluable. Dan how do you mentor, how do you coach people? What’s it like working with you and being mentored by you, if you could describe that experience?

Dan Pena: When you finish the week long seminar, eight days actually, we have twelve months of the mentor program, which is free, which also means that if you don’t perform or do what I say I can throw you out, it’s free. You have weekly reports and they’re very copious reports where I make you accountable for your time for the week and monthly, once a month you have a, like today I had a Zoom call where I had twenty two people from the last seminar all on the call.

The call took over three hours and we went through what you did, what you accomplished, what you failed at, what you were successful at, how you could do it better, etc. We go through all twenty two and it takes between three and four hours and we do that once a month. We hold your hand a little more, generally in the first two or three months. We don’t hold your hand so fucking gingerly in the last few months because I expect you to have learned something by that time.

Not everyone is in acquisition mode but most of the people want to find low hanging fruit that they can buy, companies. Some want to build their own company up more and that’s fine and a lot of people use QLA for that and so we hold their hand and take them through the process for twelve months. But I’m still assisting people that came to my first seminars in 1993 and 1994. Obviously not as active but I’m still helping those guys and of course now I give five to six seminars a year and the next one is, which I can August Seminar starts the last couple days in July, which is prior to my birthday, my seventieth birthday and all the former alumni of the castle seminars are invited to my birthday.

It’s going to be a black tie event, quite formal. It will be a lot of fun and I’ll have an opportunity to thank a number of people that have helped me. Unfortunately most of the people that have helped me are all dead but there will be a few that are there that aren’t dead yet. I say yet, I don’t mean it that way but I mean that haven’t passed on, that are still healthy enough to travel on a plane to get here. But most of them are gone, which is sad but part of life and growing older. There will be a lot of my young mentees that have had a lot of success but I mean my success rate, even though it was very good, in April of 2010 when I gave the first year long mentor program, I mean the success has been astronomical.

I don’t know why I don’t think of it before Dan, I have no idea why. None of you marketing geniuses suggested it to me. I don’t know why but the important thing is I do it now.

What’s Your Daily Routine?

Dan Lok: I think we’re all too afraid. Yes, yes and I think it’s absolutely invaluable. I’m sure there are some of them who can’t take the accountability, who can’t take the pressure, like oh my God I’ve got a report today and on a regular basis, some people it’s a lot of pressure, I can see that but I think for the high performance ones it’s absolutely priceless. Well Dan I’m mostly curious, what’s your daily routine? Like what time do you get up, maybe it’s different from many years ago? How do you stay productive?

Dan Pena: The only difference is now I also about one to one and a half hours longer than I used to. That’s the only difference really but I normally, like this morning I got up at eight. I came down and I did my initial emails, I verified my schedule and thank you again Dan, this call has changed three or four times and I apologize for that.

So today I had three, four, five of these calls, one of which was three hours long and I went and got a haircut. I didn’t have the time to workout in the gym today because I have so much to get done so today’s not really a good day to compare it to. Sometimes I have lunch. I never have breakfast. I have a light lunch. I had dinner with my wife where I had dish, salad, and some what else, that’s about it. When we get done with this call I will finish up my emails, I will also pack for tomorrow because we leave early tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning on the way to the airport, diving to the airport I will have the other podcast “Reflections and Confessions of the 50 Billion Dollar Man” in the backseat of my new Phantom Extended Roy’s that my wife gave me for my birthday. She gave it to me early. It came a few months early and its interesting when the kids come to the seminar, we have all our cars parked in front of the castle and as I look out the window I see a black Phantom 2015 Extended, next to it is a Bentley, next to is an Aston Martin DB9, and next to it is a Ferrari, I think it’s called 458.

Yes, new one. And when the kids come and they see those cars, and they’re not there to impress the kids, I don’t give a shit about that, but when they see those cars, one of those cars will resonate with them. Normally it’s either the James Bond DB9 or the Ferrari, one of those two cars. The older guys resonate with the Bentley but very few guys really lust after the Roy’s that weighs over ten thousand pounds.

Dan Lok: Why do you think that is?

Dan Pena: I tell them that’s because they’re not setting their goals high enough. But tomorrow I’ll film an episode of that and then we fly through Paris to Barcelona and I have a meeting with a Culee Debote at the hotel tomorrow and I try to see mentees, guys that are interested in Culee, just so I can talk to them and keep a pulse on what they’re thinking.

So I see one tomorrow late before I go to bed and then I see a couple more there next day. Sally and I have been to Barcelona many times so I don’t think we’ll be going on any tours and then the next day I get on a cruise, small boat, well not a small boat and we’ll cruise through Italy and through some of Spain and then we come back and I get ready for another castle seminar. I’m always pretty much contactable as you pretty much know. It normally doesn’t take me too long to get back to you.

And because of Skype and Zoom and that kind of thing, were really fortunate because we have instant communication, you know. It’s like if Donald Trump had said that ugly thing that he said twenty years ago it might not have even got to the news but now it’s probably been in front of twenty five million eyeballs.

Dan Lok: It’s true. It’s true and people talk about it out tweet, ask the publicity. It’s not good publicity but it’s still part of publicity. I’m curious Dan what do you think of Trump running for President?

Dan Pena: I don’t think he’s running for real. I think it’s just publicity, like you said. Donald’s got a big ego. Nothing wrong with that, so do I. He’s got a big ego; he likes to be married to beautiful blondes which I can relate to because I’m married to one too. And we’re almost there same age. I’m only about a year older than Donald but its part of his marketing brand.

Part of Trump, when you think of Trump you think big hotels, casinos and you think of his real estate projects, etc. but you also think of, he’s got a big mouth, he’s articulate he’s not a stupid guy he’s a bright guy and he’s been very successful. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t know him well enough to know if he’d say he’d like to retract what he said, I don’t know if he’d retract it at all. Apparently he’s standing by what he said, but that’s part of Trump. Not a lot of high performance people do back down. There’s very little chance that He’s going to be president.

You’re a Canadian Citizen right?

Dan Lok: Yes

Dan Pena: You’re not an American Citizen right?

Dan Lok: No, a Canadian.

Dan P: There’s about as much chance as you being President as him.

Dan Lok: He’d get a benefit out of that. I think with Trump there’s a lot that hate him but it doesn’t matter we part attention to what he says, that’s the bottom line. Well Dan I do have one more question before we go. I do want you to talk about the castle seminar. If you could travel back to the day when you were getting started, a younger you to communicate any lessons you’ve learned over the years with the intention of saving yourself the mistakes and headaches, what would you tell your former self?

Dan Pena: OK that’s a good question. I was asked recently in the “50 Billion Dollar Man” a question, what is the best advice you didn’t take? Without a doubt what I’m about to say guys is it should be in the Bible. It should be there eleventh commandment. Focus on the few, not the many. Costas Gratos told me that about thirty five years ago and I don’t believe him.

Costas Gratos was one of my mentors who was the CEO of a massive shipping line and who was a friend for sixty plus years of Arostotle Onassis and I had the privilege of him really looking me and mentoring me and I was with the Onassis group for a few years. He says Mr Pena, because people are always asking him what’s the three things that you learned and the this and the that and he said Mr. Pena there’s only one that I want to leave you with and this was before he got sick and died. Focus on the few not the many and Claus Whits the famous Prussian General said a similar thing in battle Focus on the few not the many.

We always try to do too much. We always try to do too much and we always end up doing none of it well. When people send me their plans before they come to the seminar because they have to fill out a lot, a lot of paperwork now and I mean I’ve got people that are corporate structure Dan, looks like fucking General Motors. I’ve got a Canadian partner, God love him named Brian who’s in the engineering business and when he sent me his schematic I thought we had twenty five thousand employees.

He has eighteen companies, he had this, he had that and now we’re down to a mere five or six which is still probably two or three too many but focus on the few kids and then give it your all. Focus on the few not the many and its the best advice that I didn’t take from Costas and I wish I had but nothing I can do about it now other than give him praise. And you know he gives a couple examples and I’m only going to give you one example. He talked about the Onassis people. They had a hundred and seven ships all paid for, no debt and a Panamanian flag and he said when we made a lot of money everyone said we should diversify so we started Olympic Airlines.

We had Olympic Airlines five, six, seven years. We didn’t know how to run it and we gave it back to the Greek government. We built this tower, Olympic Tower Mr. Pena, right now it’s sixty percent empty, forty percent full. Everybody said why should we pay rent on two hundred and sixty square feet of office space, better than we pay ourselves right? What they didn’t tell us is, who are we going to rent the other sixty percent of the building to? And he went through five or six examples like that and he says what we should have done was just bought ten or twenty or thirty more ships cause we know how to run ships. Focus on the few not the many.

Dan Lok: Just like I learned from you there are genius in simplicity. I think many years ago you said of you cannot put your business model on a napkin you don’t have a fucking business.

Dan Pena: Correct

Dan Lok: It’s very true I now so the same practice with any business partner, with any mentee. We would draw the whole thing on a napkin and if you can’t explain it in less than a minute then we know it’s too complicated, it’s too complex. So for those of you who want to learn more about Dan or get access to material, you can go to and get access to all Dan’s materials which a lot of people, including myself would pay thousands and thousands of dollars for and you can get access to it for free. Dan if they want to find out more about the castle seminar, like upcoming dates where can they go to find that?

Dan Pena: You just go to without the QLA, just the .com and that’s my site that’s got hundreds and hundreds of pages of free content, blogs, newsletter, etc. The stuff that Dan Locke didn’t put on his site that I already had, that wasn’t product is on that site and just go to the seminar page. The next seminar starts the last couple days of July and it goes through the sixth of August and if you did come to that seminar than you should stay for my seventieth birthday which will be at no cost cause you will be a QLA Alumni, Castle Alumni. I wish you all, all you guys, all the good fortune you deserve through hard work and if there’s ever any way that I could be of assistance, you can contact me personally or you can contact me through Dan Lok and I want to thank you for this opportunity and I couldn’t be prouder of you Dan.

Dan Lok: Thank you so much Dan and for inspiring us today with your story and your wisdom. Thank you so much.

Dan Pena: My pleasure. God Bless.