Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 126 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Sean McCabe about how to grow a sustainable, profitable, and audience-driven business.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Shawn Wenner and Chris Hill from Entrepreneurial Chef about the common characteristics of chefs, how to diversify your online income, and what it takes to make it as an entrepreneurial chef. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Turning your passion into your day job. That’s the dream, right?
Not so fast. Sometimes it’s better to have a day job outside of your passions, and Sean is here to tell you why.
In addition to this lesson, Sean also explains why investing in your audience is one of the most important decisions you can make when building your business.
Learn how to grow your sustainable, profitable, and audience-driven business in this interview.
Be sure to review us on iTunes!
If you'd like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: In this episode we are talking to Sean McCabe about how to grow a sustainable profitable audience driven business in your area of passion and expertise.
Hey everybody, this is Bjork Ostrom and you’re listening to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We have a really awesome interview today with Sean McCabe. Sean has a site called seanwes.com and some other ventures as well that he’s going to be talking about. But one of the things that I love about this interview with Sean is that he shares a lot of really pointed and actionable advice that aligns with how we view building online businesses.
As a matter of fact, on Sean’s about page, you can get there by going to seanwes.com/about, he shares an image of a little drawing that he did, or lettering, that is titled, “Show up every day for two years.” Before we get to the interview I wanted to share what this screenshot shows, or what this image shows, because it’s so important to understand this for those of you especially in the early stages, but even for those of you that have been doing this for a while and want to take it to the next level. This is an important thing to understand.
Here it is, I’ll read it and describe it. The header is, “Show up every day for two years.” Sean says, “That’s the golden answer right there.” Then there’s a list here, “It will make you money. It will build an audience. It will solve most of your problems. It will develop the tenacity you need to survive. It will teach you that those who are successful aren’t successful because of some condensed version of their story they gave on a podcast interview, but because they made a commitment to show up every single day when it was hard, when it sucked, and when it looked like nothing would come of it.” But no one will hear this advice because, quote, “Show up every day for two years,” end quote, isn’t microwavable.
That right there is so important to understand, and it’s so important to talk about that, especially on a podcast like this, where we spend a half an hour, an hour, with people, hearing about their condensed story. But it’s important to remember, this is two, three, four, five years in the making for a lot of the people that we interview.
So I wanted to point that out, I wanted to spend some time with it before we jump into the interview with Sean. But he’s going to talk about some more of these things in depth, and he’s also going to talk about his story and how you can apply some of the things that he’s learned to your story. He’s going to talk about this concept of overlapping, which I think is awesome and a really, really incredible thing to keep in mind as you are growing your business and making some of those really significant and important transitions. So let’s go ahead and jump into the interview. Sean, welcome to the podcast.
Sean McCabe: Hey, thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s going to be really fun to chat here, because like I said before we press record here, scrolling through your Instagram account, which I would recommend everybody do, it is seanwes, W-E-S. Looking at some of the quotes from your book Overlap, and there are so many concepts that you talk about that are spot on.
I want to dig into some of those, but before we do I want to hear this. This is one of my favorite questions to ask people that come on the show. When people ask you what you do Sean, maybe you meet them in a coffee shop or you’re going up the elevator, kind of the typically elevator pitch. What do you tell them that you do?
Sean McCabe: I basically say I help people build and grow an audience driven business. For the most part that ends up being helping people who feel stuck in a job that they hate. Maybe their soul’s getting sucked away. I want to help them start a business while they’re working a full-time job.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s a lot of the people that are listening to this podcast, not necessarily people that entirely hate their job. I would assume that’s not everybody, but I would assume there are people that kind of like their job, but then really love their passion as well.
For the people that are listening to this, I think they’re going to be abl to take a lot away because you’ve done this yourself. So before focusing on helping people do this, you yourself were building an audience focused business on a creative pursuit. Can you talk a little bit about what you were doing before this phase that you’re in right now?
Sean McCabe: Yeah. I was running a web firm. I was enjoying the work but I still felt this kind of creative void in my life. I think a lot of us feel this type of thing, when like you said, maybe we’re at a job that we don’t necessarily hate, but it’s not the thing that we’re totally passionate about. There’s this emptiness and we want to fill that with some kind of creative pursuit.
For me that was hand lettering, so I would letters by hand. You’ve probably seen hand lettering on Pinterest and Instagram and things like that, a lot of people drawing popular quotes and phrases. But for me, I usually wrote my own messages, rather than take a super popular phrase, which I did sometimes. I would share a message that I had with the world.
That was the first thing. Now, I’ve written a book, I do courses, I have a podcast and a community. Now, I found all these other ways to share my message, but this was the very first place that I found that I had a voice. It started out with just creating work, I would share it online. No one really seemed to notice. I was showing up every single day, no joke. In my nights and weekends, I was spending about six to eight hours a day drawing letters. This is outside of my day job.
I was doing it because I loved doing it, I really enjoyed it. I showed up every single day for two years, I was posting work every single day, and nobody seemed to care. Which, in one sense is kind of disheartening, but honestly I just enjoyed doing it so much I wasn’t even concerned. I was doing it really just for me, but for some reason two years in people started asking, “Hey, can I hire you for some work? Can I get that design you made on a t-shirt,” and it started to flourish from there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you look back at that, and I think there’s a couple things that are really important to pull from that. Number one, when we hear two years in the context of our life, or just in general when people say two years, it doesn’t seem like that much. But when you talk about working on something six to eight hours a day for two years, that’s a ton of time, especially when you aren’t having that traction that you want to have.
There’s two pieces that I think are important for that first part. One is that you said, “I loved doing it.” So it was possible for you to do that six to eight hours. I think sometimes people can have this idea of, “I really want to grow this thing and then transition out of my job, and so I’m going to do that as quickly as possible.” They may be working on something they don’t really enjoy and so they get burnt out after a year and say, “I’m not going to do this,” but it takes a long time. For us it was three, four, five years until we started to see some traction with what we do.
The other thing that I think is really important with that is that you had gotten to the point where you had gotten in a rhythm with that. You had shown up every day and you were creating that content. As we dig into interviews, one of the things that we find with people is that that’s a really common theme, that they’re showing up every day. Can you talk a little bit about how you were able to do that? Was it strictly passion related? Were you so passionate about what you were doing that it made it easier to show up? Or did you have this light at the end of the tunnel, that you know eventually if you kept with it something would happen?
Sean McCabe: No. In fact probably the opposite. I always thought this could never be a job. This could never be something that could sustain me. In fact that’s what’s kept me from doing it for many, many years. I used to draw letters in middle school. I always was fascinated with it, before I even knew there was such a thing as typography. I just thought I was a weirdo because all of my other artistic friends were illustrators, and here I am drawing letters.
But I just put it on the back burner, I didn’t touch it for a long time because I thought, “Well … ” I don’t know, I just felt like I got this message that if you’re going to do something it needs to be something viable, something that could sustain you. It wasn’t until I met a friend who came in town, it was actually the first time I met him in person, I knew him online. He was a hand lettering artist and he said, “Hey, if you enjoy it, just create because you enjoy creating.” It was like he gave me permission and I just started doing it.
I started doing it thinking there’s no way I can make money from this. Little did I know that some years later I would make half a million dollars from it. But it was really just like you said, the passion was the seed, the love for doing it was the seed. But when I look back, I’ve figured out that there’s four parts to this, four parts to the audience that I ended up being able to grow.
Which is, curation, consistency, quality and time. So by curation what I mean is, I was doing all kinds of things in the web firm. I was doing user interface design, illustration, screen-casts, just all kinds of stuff, icon design. I was publishing everything. Every single thing that I made I shared it, whatever kind of random bit of design or artwork that I made, or work, or business related, I just shared it all. It was this random assortment. No one, they couldn’t tell you what I did. No one could clearly say, “This is what this guy is about.”
But once I started to curate, and that word curate I mean to selectively project a single focused thing. I decided, “I’m just going to post lettering because this is what I want to do. This is what I want to be known for.” Behind the scenes I as doing all kinds of stuff, but I’m only going to put forward the lettering. Over a period of time, not very long actually, this was kind of the inflection point, people started to associate me with lettering. They started to say, “Hey, he’s that lettering guy,” and it started to kick things off.
It’s that curation, that selectively, the consistency, you know showing up every day for two years. The quality, really pouring myself into this spending three, four, five, six hours on a single piece. And then honestly it’s that time, even if you do everything right, you’ve got the perfect formula, it takes time for this stuff to kick in.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Man, the idea of picking and curating something, picking a niche maybe some people would say, I think is such an important concept and such an important thing to apply to what we do. How did you land on lettering? For those that are in our space, a lot of times they’ll say, “I’m really interested in food,” or, “I’m really interested in publishing recipes.” But maybe they’re a little bit nervous to really claim a niche because they don’t want to restrict themselves to just something really, a small narrow focus.
So, was that an intentional decision for you? Did you say, “I want to do this?” Or, did you start to see some traction with lettering and say, “Hey, it makes sense for me to go this way because the door continually opens here?”
Sean McCabe: This was about seven years ago, so at the time I feel like lettering, hand lettering itself, was pretty niche. Right now, it’s exploded quite a bit. I actually didn’t realize that I was at the beginning of this resurgent interest. From I think 2007 to 2011, somewhere in there or there about, searches for the phrase, “hand lettering,” went up 1,000%. It just exploded. I don’t really know why but it did.
I was kind of in the middle of that. Nowadays, I would say hand lettering if you were to focus on that, food blogging if you were to focus on that, I would probably pick something even more specific within that to really differentiate yourself. The reason people feel scared is because they’re like, “Well, I don’t know anyone who does this very specific thing.” Like food styling for editorials in magazines, that seems so niche, why would I pick that?
Well, we’re thinking in terms of the first level of relationships that we have, like one level deep of the people that we know. We’re saying, “I don’t know anyone who does that. I don’t know anyone who wants me to do that for them.” But really we should be thinking about that second level, who do the people that you know know. If you are something very generic, “I’m a designer,” “I’m an artist,” “I’m a food blogger.” If it’s very generic, you’re not going to be at the forefront of their mind when that topic comes up.
What that means is you haven’t given them the ammunition to spread the word about you. You need to go as specific as you need until you can be the best at that thing. Don’t worry that the people you know aren’t the perfect audience, they know a lot of other people.
I was looking for an editor for my book, which is a non-fiction book, and when I found a non-fiction editor I thought, “That’s exactly what I need, a non-fiction editor.” When I was looking for a typesetter, someone who said, “I am a typesetter for non-fiction authors.” Oh my gosh, I have to have this person. When you get that specific, you give everyone you know the ability to spread the word about you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s similar in some ways to what we do with this podcast. It’s The Food Blogger Pro Podcast and we have a membership site, it’s Food Blogger Pro. Somebody asked me just the other day, they said, “Do you think you’ll ever expand out and do just general blogging?” I said, “I think one of the most powerful things is how niche we are.” I think once we go too kind of a generic blogging category, while there’d be huge reach, I think there’d be less, like you said, ammunition for people to say, “Hey, you should really check out this podcast,” or, “You should really check out this site if you are interested in starting a food blog.”
What you’re saying there speaks to this general idea that we had of like, “I think it makes sense for us to stay within this niche.” So, eventually you moved out of lettering specifically, you had some success there, and you started to expand into other areas. You had mentioned, there’s a point where you had made a half a million dollars. That’s a lot of money and that’s a lot of proof that this is something that’s working. Can you talk about what that transition was like, into moving out of lettering as a business, and why you did that?
Sean McCabe: Yeah. I was actually getting to the point where I made great money as a hand lettering artist. I left the web firm. We hibernated that firm. I started taking on jobs with the lettering, doing work for magazines, an ad campaign for the city of Las Vegas. Good paying stuff, I was making great money for myself, but people were asking me how I was able to do what I was doing.
I put up a little guide on the website and over the course of the next year a couple hundred thousand people read that guide. I’m thinking, “There’s room to go deeper here. I could definitely share some more.” I ended up producing this course called, “Learn lettering.” That course ended up making six figures in just a few days.
I’m really just responding to the demand that I see was there. You know, the first t-shirt I made, I made it because so many people commented on this one illustration I did, asking for a t-shirt. So when I made it in response to the demand, it sold out, and then it sold out again. It happened half a dozen more times.
The course was also in response to demand and it did really well. But when there’s a story of hand letting artist makes six figures in three days, you start to get on the radar of people that are outside of the art world, because a lot of people would like to do that. And so I started getting more general questions from people saying, “How were you able to do this?” I just started sharing different marketing tactics, business things, and started podcasting. This was about four years ago.
Just sharing what I learned and just teaching what I knew, as I went along. I was iterating in public. That led to getting a bunch of emails from listeners. Like man, I’m having these life changing conversations over email with listeners, but they aren’t able to talk to each other. So that brings about the community and then the conference, and so it kind of spiraled from there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about the, you had mentioned this a couple times, how intentional you were with documenting the process? I’ve heard other influencers and thought leaders talk about that, Gary Vaynerchuk uses this mantra. He talks about, “Document over create,” and the idea that you are publicly sharing your journey. We’ve done pieces of that, but I think we could be more intentional about how we do that, and I also think that other people that are listening to this could be really intentional about that. What does that look like for you? Really specifically, what does it look like to document and then publish what you’re doing?
Sean McCabe: For me, I know that when I look back over my story, when I look back at the past I see the past through rose colored glasses. I don’t really see it for what it was, and I find myself wanting to retell the story, rework the story. Like when I started writing my book, I actually set out to write not just one book in a month but three books in a month. The process was very messy. I ended up deciding on day four that I wanted to combine all three books into one, and I was so frustrated because that complicates the story.
I would have told the story differently had I had the opportunity, but because I was documenting as I went along, I was journaling the process of writing the book, there it was, the raw story was out in the open. This is how it happened. It’s written. I can’t go back and change it. It may seem like, “This is boring, nobody cares about this stuff,” but it’s not so much about what you did this day or this week. It’s everything in aggregate.
It shows that your early work wasn’t perfect. It shows that the journey is not a straight line. It shows that getting where you are today, it wasn’t magic. Gary talks about this, there’s a lot of people who don’t so much care about a particular person or a celebrity, but they would care about the story of how they got there because that’s what everyone wants, that’s what everyone relates to.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It was fun to watch your, you had this kind of mini-documentary on writing the book and the process. It was that exact thing where I was researching for the podcast and this is the danger with researching interesting content, is suddenly 20 minutes later I’m still just watching this video. Because it was so interesting to observe your story.
The thing about it that drew me in was the imperfections of it. Meaning, you are at this point where you’re like, “I’ve just realized today, it doesn’t make sense to do three books.” So you’re explaining this change and this pivot, and it would be a lot cleaner to get to the end and then retell the story, which I think a lot of people do. I think that can be discouraging for others, because we observe this perfect highlight reel of what it’s been like for other people, but one of the beauties of something, and we’ll link to this in the show notes, like your little documentary, is that, or short documentary, that it shows the process that you go through.
Like you said, it’s not this straight line, it’s up and it’s down. But in general, you’re showing up, you’re consistently creating and the overall arc is up and to the right. So as we keep that in mind, let’s go a layer deeper and say, how do you do that? How do you continually show up every day and document on a really specific level? Are you recording video? Are you publishing blog posts? Along with actually creating the content, you’re also documenting, and I think that’s a really difficult thing to do.
Sean McCabe: Well, this is what Gary is trying to simplify for people, because it gets difficult when you think of it in terms of creation. When you think, “I need to make a video. I need to write a post. I need to publish a newsletter, or record a podcast.” Instead, he’s encouraging you to flip that around and just say, “You know what, I’m just going to document. It’s going to be raw, it’s going to be real.” This is the tough part for me because I like really polished things, really produced things. It might mean pulling out your phone and just recording a little Instagram story. Sharing that process, sharing the unpolished and raw process, people will appreciate the human behind the work. The message is, don’t overthink it. What’s your motivation today? Why is this thing that you’re working on interesting? Why is it dull? You know, your take on why something’s dull might actually be interesting.
Bjork Ostrom: Is interesting, yeah.
Sean McCabe: Yeah, exactly. There’s no such thing as too real, because it’s all relatable, it’s all the human element. If you’re not sharing the low points, then the highs are not going to be real. The question I would have you ask is, how bright do you want the brightest points of your story to be? Because they will be as bright as the darkest points you share.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s a great takeaway, and encouraging for people to hear that it doesn’t have to just be a highlight reel. It can also be the things that are hard or difficult, or like you said maybe a little bit dull, but leaning into those and saying, “Here’s why this didn’t work.” I think that’s great. You wrote a book, Overlap, and you gave yourself a restricted amount of time to do this. Can you talk about what the thinking was behind that? Why you placed to restrictions on yourself and what you learned in the process?
Sean McCabe: I wrote the book, I ended writing this book, it’s 75,000 words, in 15 days. My brother was actually so fascinated by this idea, this challenge, that he asked if he could record me and make a documentary of the whole process. Which I said, “Knock yourself out.” He did. If you want to watch that documentary it’s at overlapbook.com.
But the reason I set this aside is not do some crazy challenge or whatever. I’d been working on the idea of this book for three or four years. I got about 20,000 words in and I scrapped it because I was writing the book that I wanted to write, and not the book that people needed to read. I went back to the drawing board. I had hundreds of conversations over the next three years, at conferences, meetups and events, trying to learn what is that’s keeping people stuck? People that want to start something, people that want to create a business but don’t feel like they … they don’t know what the thing is.
I’m trying to write this practical business book because I like breaking down complex things and simplifying it for people, but I found out that it’s not the business principles, it’s not the practical business stuff that’s holding people back. It’s things like, “I come home from my day job and I’m not feeling motivated.” Or, “My spouse doesn’t support me,” or, “My family doesn’t believe in me.”
I’m realizing it’s all these real deep things. So I went back to write the book and essentially reverse engineered it. I’m going to first help people get unstuck from these real problems, and then I’m going to lay out the practical business stuff. So I said back in 2015, “I’m going to take off a month in 2016 and write this book.” Mainly because I had so many other projects, I knew it was never going to get done unless I set aside the time. So it was really like I felt like I didn’t have time to write this book and so I just said, “I’m going to carve out time and just get it done.”
Bjork Ostrom: In the process, you have these other things that you’re doing and you have to give those things up. Can you talk about what that was like, to cut the things out that you usually do in a day? Because I’m guessing your days are pretty full, and now they have to be full with something else, what did that look like?
Sean McCabe: That was intense. I prepared for this for weeks, if not months, leading up. Just building a routine that would allow me to crank out 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 words a day. That started with … Okay, it involves waking up early, but the reason we say it’s hard to wake up early is because we go to sleep late. We go to sleep late because we’re like, “Well, I finished my work late,” and we finish our work late because there’s always more work to be done.
Well, let’s look at that part right there, there’s always more work to be done. That’s always going to be the case, so let’s not let that dictate our lives, let’s build the life that we want. So the first step for me to this whole things was deciding to stop the work, stop my work for the day, when there’s more work to be done. That was actually the first piece. It was like, “I’m going to stop at five, even though there’s more work to be done. I’m going to have dinner. I’m going to have this nighttime routine. Lights off by nine. Get up at 4:30, go on a run.” But I had this big idea of like, “This is my perfect day, my perfect morning, the most optimal routine.”
It was too overwhelming. It was this one big mess, like spaghetti. It was this big glob of inter-tangled things. I’m like, “Okay, I can’t take all that once. I have to break this down.” So I would say, if I have lights out by nine PM, today’s a success. It doesn’t matter if I wake up early, it doesn’t matter if I write, today’s a success if I go to bed.
I did that for a couple weeks, and then I started defining success by when I woke up. Then I shifted it to defining success by, did I go on a run? Did I write today? I kind of chained together these little habits one at a time. I spent weeks, one at a time, nailing down each of those until it became natural. Right now I’m actually trying to build up a habit of flossing, because it’s always one of those things that it goes off to the side, but I started, I made myself accountable with someone. It sounds super silly but like-
Bjork Ostrom: No, I love stuff like this. It’s, yeah, so interesting for me to talk about. I’m right on board.
Sean McCabe: We literally, me and a friend we take a screenshot of a calendar and we mark it up on our iPhone with a little X. The fact that he’s going to beat me if he has more Xs than I do gets me to do it. But it’s like, my wife actually said she wants to write a post called, “How flossing helped me run a half marathon.” It’s the little habits that become chain reactions.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and the idea of layering habits I think is so important too, because so often we can … and I do this all the time, where I’m like, “I’m going to do a complete life overhaul. I’m going to start getting up early. I’m going to start running every day. I’m going to clean off my desktop on my computer and not have any dust on my desk.” And then this is overwhelming, but if you can take that one thing and apply it, it can really build over time.
One of the things we talk about a lot on this podcast is a concept called 1% infinity. It’s this idea of getting a little bit better every day forever. I think it’s take the weight off of people of saying like, “I need to go full-time with my business and only be working on this in a year.” It’s so much, it’s so overwhelming that it becomes counterproductive, as opposed to saying, “What’s the one thing I can do today to get a little bit better?” With the mindset that I’m going to be doing this for a really long period of time. I think the flossing analogy is a perfect analogy for that.
I want to go back to two different things that you said. It was a little bit further back, but I think it would be important to talk about these, just because they were the things that you mentioned, so I would assume that they’re also the things that are most common, or at least decently common. One of the things that you said is, your book Overlap, you talk about this idea of people making the transition from doing … into working into passionate work as a solopreneur or entrepreneur, and out of a typical nine to five job, or whatever it’d be.
You said one of the things that people often struggle with is coming home at the end of the day and not feeling motivated. It’s such a real human thing, and it’s not business strategy, it’s not, “Here’s a tip for how to optimize your website.” It’s like, “I just don’t feel motivated.” So in a situation like that, what would your advice be to people that, for people that come home and they don’t feel motivated at the end of the day?
Sean McCabe: This is a tough one. It’s tough, but what I’ve identified is when your day job, the industry of your day job is the same as the industry of your passion, that’s where you’re going to end up coming home feeling exhausted. When you’re spending that kind of creative energy that you need for your passion at the day job, it’s going to deplete you of the kind of energy you need to do your thing on the side.
So in the overlap process what I recommend is getting a day job outside of the industry of your passion. Because it’s essentially, it’s not the right, it’s not fertile ground for growing your passion. That’s where your passion can often go to die, because it’s not the right environment for it. It’s not a hard and fast rule that says it has to be in a different industry, but this is the litmus test. If you come home from your day job at the end of the day, and you’re not feeling motivated to work on your side passion, you’re using the kind of energy you need at the day job.
That’s what has to be addressed, because the right day job, this is going to blow some people’s minds because they’re so used to just being drained and exhausted. The right day job will charge you for your passion.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It reminds me of a book that Jon Acuff wrote. We interviewed Jon on the podcast and we’ll link to that in the show notes as well. He wrote a book that talks about, the idea with the book … I’m trying to remember what it is offhand, I don’t remember the name of it. But it’s this idea that the best way to become a really good entrepreneur or to build your own thing outside of your job, is to do a really good job with the job that you currently have.
It’s dissonant to show up and be kind of lazy and not really do anything at your job, and then expect to go home and then turn it on and be really awesome. It’s interesting to hear you talk about another version of that, and saying, “Hey, what you do in your nine to five really is important for making the transition into doing your own thing.” Making sure that in that nine to five, that you have the ability to, as much as possible, come home and be excited about or passionate about the work that you’re doing, or that overlap transition. I think that, great takeaway there.
The other thing that you talked about as a really common scenario, and we hear this every once in a while with emails and people following up is, my spouse or my significant other doesn’t really get what I’m doing. Sean, when you and I talk, we get it, we’re excited about it, but for some people that aren’t in the industry, that don’t understand this world, it’s like it seems weird and strange. A lot of times that might be a spouse or a significant other. So, if somebody has a person like that in their life, that maybe isn’t necessarily really supportive, how do they go about approaching that?
Sean McCabe: Man, we’re going straight to the deep stuff, right? It’s another one of those, hey, this is a problem. I recognize that. The solution is also going to be somewhat involved. Just to touch on the last thing, I’m not saying your day job has to be in a different industry from your passion because I’m sadistic and I want you to hate your life. The reason for it is because I want you to protect the passion. In the overlap, the day job is the foundation. It covers 100% of your bills so that you can make objective decisions, so that you don’t feel like in scarcity, so that you don’t take on opportunities that are not good that end up having you hate what you do that you once loved.
Similarly here, what I’m going to prescribe is not because I want you to feel like, “This is going to take forever.” I want you to enjoy the process and I want you to actually have a spouse at the end of this thing, because in all reality people end up breaking up over this stuff. They break up over money, they break up over businesses, they break up because they’re not on the same page. You have to realize, you are two parts of a whole unit as someone who is married, someone with a significant other.
So if you’re spouse is like, “I don’t really get your thing,” the reason they don’t get your thing is because you haven’t taken the time to communicate it to them. You’re going to say, “Yes, I have. Yes, I have.” But there’s a difference between communicating and broadcasting. If you broadcast radio signals into space, and no one picks them up, they’re not actually received. You’re not communicating, you’re just broadcasting.
Communication is both the sending and receipt of a message, so to know that you’ve communicated you have to make sure that you were heard. The only to know that you were heard is when you hear your message out of the other person’s mouth. So it takes communicating to them why this is important, but realize that even the time it takes to communicate, asking for them, asking of them for the time to set aside to talk about this thing that matters to you, is a cost to them. You’re asking for something of them, to earn the right to do that you have to invest in them.
So if they’re not supporting you, believe it or not it actually starts with you. You have to invest in them because if you invest in them and what they care about, and listen to their hopes and dreams and desires, and support them, it’s the rule of reciprocity, they’re going to come around, they’re going to to support you because it’s a natural intrinsic human desire to reciprocate.
So it’s starts with you, and you’re thinking, “Well okay, but my spouse, it’s not like they’re tearing me down, it’s not like they’re saying I can’t do it. They just don’t really care. They’re not really helping me. They’re not really supporting me.” So it’s not a big deal, right? This is where I would use an analogy of a Flintstones car.
Flintstones’ car has an open bottom and you pedal with your feet, that’s how the car moves. The people in your life that are close to you, especially your significant other, they’re like people in the Flintstones’ car with you. Yeah, they may not be pedaling forward, but as long as they’re not pedaling backwards, backpedaling, then it’s fine. Well, it’s making your job really hard because essentially they’re dead weight in this Flintstones’ car. It’s making it really hard to make progress. You’d be much more successful if you took a moment to get them on board, and then you know what, now they’re helping you move forward.
Because here’s the thing, if everything works out in your plan, you make the millions of dollars, your business is successful. It’s not going to matter to them in the end. You’re going to reach that point and either they’re going to be gone because you never paid attention to them, you didn’t take the time to communicate with them. Or, they’re going to hate the whole thing because they’re not just gt remember the result, they’re going to remember the journey, the process on the way to getting there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and the journey could either be one in which they are involved and a part of it, or potentially it could be one in which they view it as they had something taken from them, like time together or your attention if you were completely dedicating that a business or this side hustle. It could potentially be a negative thing over, in the short term and the long term.
Sean McCabe: Yeah, 100%. You’ve got to get them on board. Nothing else matters. This whole thing falls apart and ti has zero meaning to you. You will lose everything that matters if you don’t get them on board. So if you want to get them on board, it starts with you and it starts with you investing in them. What can you do to make them feel loved? What can you do to make them feel like you support them no matter what in whatever they want to do? How can you put your money where your mouth is there?
Bjork Ostrom: And you’re saying that from the perspective of the person that wants to convince the other person.
Sean McCabe: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, which is a big mindset shift for a lot of people, to instead think about, “How can I convince somebody else of what I want to do?” It’s kind of saying, “How can I be the person that is supportive and encourages this other person my life to do what they want to do,” or to serve them. Which, it feels backwards but I can totally understand how you start with that in order to have it be a productive conversation.
Sean McCabe: An analogy just came to mind when you were saying that. It’s like a pendulum. You can push one way, they can push the other, and you’re trying to pull them in a direction they don’t want to go. Help them get where they want to go. Push, push the ball in what seems like the opposite direction of what you want to do. Like, “You know what, I really want it to go this way. I want them to support my thing.”
Well you know what, how about consider all the spare time you have after your day job. All of that time is allocated to investing in them until they’re on board. Because if you push the pendulum in their direction, the rule of reciprocity is going to dictate that it comes back in your direction. Now you’ve actually got a partnership here, instead of just a dictatorship.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Hard questions, thanks for going there.
Sean McCabe: Yeah, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: In Overlap you talk about this idea of building a community. You actually yourself have a community of entrepreneurs and people that are building businesses. Any time that people have a community and multiple hundreds, or in your case thousands, of touch points with people that are in the industry and doing it, whatever doing it looks like. It could be just starting out, could be mid level, could be at a really high level. You have a really good picture of some trends that you see and some common characteristics of people that have found success with it.
So when you look at your community Sean, and the people that have either started and grown a successful business, or have come in and had a successful business that continue to be able to build that. What are some common characteristics of those individuals?
Sean McCabe: These individuals, are you talking about the community organizers or the members?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so these would be in your community, these would be the community members. I would assume that some of those people are also, they themselves, community organizers. Is that right?
Sean McCabe: Well, that’s definitely true. I think what you’re going to find is it’s a typical 80–20, but that keeps going. There’s the 80–20 of the 80–20 of the 80–20. There’s just going to be those few individuals who are just hyper engagement, like the super fans. They’re commenting on everything, they’re helping out the new people.
I honestly don’t know if it’s possible to convert people into super fans or the most engaged members. All I know is that there happens to be a small percentage of them. The best thing you can do is invest in those people, elevate those people. Essentially, promote those people. How can you give them a position in the community? How can you give them an opportunity? A lot of times those people have become … I end up hiring them full-time. They end up running the community for me, or working at the company.
Bjork Ostrom: So I think that would speak really well to people that are, let’s say building a food blog, building a recipe blog. People are coming, you have those people and I think people know these. That respond to the emails, they comment on Instagram, they engage with the videos that you’re creating. How can you then further the access that they have, or the responsibility that they have within the community?
And maybe a follow up question, and to clarify a little bit is, within your membership, the seanwes membership, the people that you work with are often times people that are building something. Is that right? Like a following or building a business online.
Sean McCabe: Yes, 100%. They’re building their own business. Some of them already have businesses, some of them have employees and they’re doing a lot of revenue. Others are still in a day job and they’re still trying to figure out that whole transition.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So for the people that are in your community, what have you noticed for those that have come in and had a lot of traction, and had a lot of success? What are the common parts of the equation that they are focusing in on that equals success for them?
Sean McCabe: Well, they’re willing to learn. We all need to be experts in our own domain. We have clients, we have audiences, and we need to be confident in the things that we’re confident in. We all deal with imposter syndrome, but it makes sense you have to be confident about things.
But you have to make sure that, everyone who succeeded that I’ve seen is willing to put themselves in the mind of the student, of the mentee. They’re willing to learn in areas that they don’t know. It’s this mindset of, every person I meet has something to teach me, so that they’re teachable, they’re coachable, they’re willing to learn. It’s a mindset of, “I’m going to show up every day. I’m going to trust the process. It’s not always going to be easy but I understand this is not an overnight success thing.”
The other thing I’d say on a more practical level is they start with where the money’s at. Which, some of us, me definitely, I’ve stumbled into money accidentally and I’ve had to learn a lot of foundational business principles after the fact. There are have been some problems that’s cause and I try and share the things that I’m learning, the mistakes I’ve made to help other people avoid that. But there are easier ways to make money than others.
For instance, there are things that you can do that make money for people, and there’s things that you can do that are more nice to have. And then, as far as the people who are buying from you, there’s people who have money, and there’s people who don’t have money. So you need to think about this spectrum, there’s people and there’s products. So people who have money and don’t, products that make money and don’t.
Now there’s cross sections between this. You can draw the lines between each of them. The easiest way to make money is to do something that makes money for people who have money. The cool thing is, if you focus there first, you put yourself in a position to eventually help the people who don’t have money. Maybe give to them, maybe do pro bono. You’re able to be generous, but first you’re taking care of the core business needs by solving valuable problems.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I was having a conversation with a friend over lunch the other day, who’s thinking of starting a business in the music industry. One of the things he said was he thought about starting a non-profit. Which I think is awesome. And then he had some other ideas for some profitable, like profit revenue producing businesses that wouldn’t be non-profit.
I said, “I think my belief would be that it would be easier to start with that, so you have that as a foundation, and then to use that foundational strong ground to then look back and say, ‘Okay, now that I have this, how can I dig into doing work that helps people?’” Obviously there’s different instances where it would make more sense to do non-profit work be profit work, but I think that a lot of times having that revenue allows you to more freely serve the people that you want to serve, because you’re not having to worry about getting revenue in. Whether that be through donations or some low price service offering.
Sean McCabe: Yeah. Yeah, there’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to do the work that you really believe in because you simple don’t have the resources.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, 100%. I’m always interested to hear about that with anybody that works with a community, to hear some of those common traits that you see with people that are finding success. The last question that I’ll ask Sean, with what you’re doing right now, what are some of the things that have been most helpful? What are the things that you would recommend people? Like, “Here are some things that are really working well for me right now?”
Sean McCabe: I’ve got to hammer on it, it’s curating what you share. Deciding what you want to be known for, and then projecting that thing. The implicit part is not projecting everything else. It’s okay to still do those things, but I’m talking about curating what you share, like a magazine you subscribe to. Why do you subscribe to that magazine? Well, you know the next issue is going to have more of what you’re seeking.
The people are asking themselves that same question when they’re deciding whether or not to follow you, to subscribe to you. What is it that I’m going to get? What is he or she about? You can answer that question by being selective about what you’re sharing, because people are going to put you in a box, that’s just the reality of it. We’re cognitively limited. You know Dunbar’s number, 150 close relationships. People have to simplify out of pure survival. So if they’re already going to put you in a box and you can’t do anything about that, at least define the box they’re going to put you in.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Sean, we have mentioned a couple different things, we’ll be sure to link to those in the show notes, but I want to make sure that you get a platform, a chance to talk about your book, Overlap. I have it sitting next to me right here. It’s an awesome super high quality book. It’s been fun to start to read that. But I know you have some other things as well, so can you talk about your book a little bit, and then where people can find you online?
Sean McCabe: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. The book is at overlapbook.com. This is for anyone who wants to start a business while working a full-time job, but also if you’re in that transition, if you’re starting out the business, you’re having trouble figuring out the money stuff. Very practical book. Go from feeling stuck to getting clarity and creating financial freedom.
I think you’ll really like that. It’s also delivered as an audio book, in the form a podcast so if you made it this far in the episode I’m assuming you like podcasts. You can either listen to that way, or you can check out the seanwes podcast. Basically a show I do that’s the intersection between creativity and business.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. My last last question, seanwes versus Sean McCabe, can you explain the difference with those?
Sean McCabe: Yeah. Sorry about the confusion there. There were a lot of Sean McCabe, that’s my full name, when I got online. A lot of them in creative industries, so rather than try and compete I just took my middle name, which is Wesley, and combined my first and middle name into something unique that didn’t exist.
Bjork Ostrom: Perfect.
Sean McCabe: That’s the brand name, seanwes, even though my full name is Sean McCabe.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. Cool. We’ll link to all those in the show notes. Sean, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Sean McCabe: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity.
Bjork Ostrom: One more big thank you to Sean from seanwes.com for coming on the podcast today. I think this will be one that I will go back and revisit, just to be reminded of some of those important things and considerations to remember as I’m building a business. I hope that you found the same value that I did out of this interview with Sean. That’s a wrap for this episode. Thanks so much for tuning in. Make it a great week.
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