Jim: Welcome to episode 50. 5-0, I can’t believe it. Episode 50. This is the Silver episode. Today, I bring you a very special guest, Russell Brunson.
Russell started his first online company while he was wrestling at Boise State University and within a year of graduating, he had sold over $1 million worth of his own products and services from his basement. For over 12 years now, Russell’s been starting and scaling companies online. He owns a software company, a supplement company, a coaching company and he is one of the top super affiliates in the world. DotComSecrets was created to help entrepreneurs around the world start, promote and grow their companies online. Russell, how you doing? Welcome to the show.
Russell: I’m doing awesome man, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Jim: I’m excited you’re here. I’ve been following you for ages, your stuff online and I love what you’re doing. I’m actually in the middle of reading DotComSecrets right now. It’s awesome. It’s a page-turner for guys like me. So it’s cool. So tell us how you got your start in wrestling, Russell.
Russell: Yeah. So I actually started, then I quit when I was a kid, then I restarted so kind of two starting stories. So the first one; I think I was in kindergarten. I was really, really young and my elementary school, the wrestling team from a high school came in and did this little demonstration and they handed everybody a piece of paper that said “Come Join the Wrestling Team.” And I didn’t know what that was but I brought it home and I didn’t know at the time that my dad had wrestled all through high school and college. And he saw that paper and he just went crazy. He was so excited.
And so the next day I was at wrestling practice and I don’t remember much of it. I have a couple of pictures from when I was a little kid but apparently, my parents said I hated it. And after like one season, they pulled me out of it. And then, we kind of forgot about it. My dad was busy with his company and all that stuff. I thought I was going to be a basketball player; I went to basketball camp. And then in 8th grade, one of my neighbors signed up for wrestling. We were at church and his dad told my dad, “Oh, Ryan just signed up wrestling,” and my dad’s like, “What? I need to get Russell in wrestling.”
And my dad told me, he’s like, “I’m taking you to wrestling practice.” I’m like, “No. I’m a basketball player, dad. I’m not doing that.” He’s like “You need to go.” I’m like, “I don’t know, that doesn’t even sound like fun.” But he forced me to go and so that was 8th grade. And I remember going through the practices and I didn’t love it, but I was like “OK, I’ll make my dad happy this year. But next year, I’m definitely playing basketball. But I’ll just do it for my dad just because whatever.” So I did it in my 8th grade year and in my 9th grade year . . . because I think you have to be in the 10th grade to be in the basketball team.
So I was like I’ll do my 9th grade year. So my 9th grade, 8th grade year, I was doing it and I was in my junior high and I would walk over to the high school after school. I remember they had wrestle-offs for the very first time and I didn’t think I was good at all. But I beat the J.V. kid in wrestle-off which shocked me because I was going to be J.V. that weekend. And I was like so scared.
Jim: All of a sudden, you’re the starter.
Russell: Yeah, I was so nervous and I remember I went and I did the weigh-ins. And the kid I was wrestling, he had a moustache. And to this day, I can’t grow a moustache. I remember looking at him and thinking, “I can’t believe I’ve got to wrestle this guy with the moustache.” I was so scared and I remember going out there on the mat and looking up at the audience. My mom and dad are probably the only two in the whole stands and there’s me on the mat with this guy with the moustache. And we started wrestling, and I remember that I beat him in that match.
I remembered getting my hand raised and looking up in the audience, and having this feeling. I was like “This is the greatest feeling I have ever felt in my whole life.” And like that day is the day I became a wrestler. I didn’t care about anything else after that point because that feeling, getting my hand raised, was the best thing I ever had. So that’s how I got into wrestling.
Jim: Yeah, getting your hand raised that first time, it hooks you, you know. And usually, it’s a lot more failures on the way to getting your hand raised that first time. But that first time you get your hand raised, it feels good. And you get hooked, you know. It’s what you keeps you coming back because certainly, it’s not the beatings that keep you coming back.
Russell: That happened every day.
Jim: Yeah, that happened every day whether you win or lose, in practice, you getting beat up, you know. So actually, where’d you grow up?
Russell: I grew up in Utah.
Jim: And your dad wrestled where? He wrestled in college as well, you say?
Russell: Yeah, he grew up in California. I think he was a C.I.F. champion in California. And then he wrestled in Brigham Young University. That’s what brought him to Utah. And that’s where I grew up and I wrestled in Utah all through high school.
Jim: Yeah. And then you went onto Boise State?
Russell: So my junior year, I actually won the state title in Utah. And then my senior year, I didn’t. I lost to a kid I had beaten twice in the year. It was actually quite embarrassing. I got caught twice in a head lock and came right back twice and I ended up losing by two points. So I took third in State in my senior year but because I had won in my junior year, I had qualified to go to the high school nationals. So that high school nationals, I actually took second there and became an All-American.
Jim: What year was that?
Russell: That was in ’98.
Russell: And then I got an offer to go to Brigham Young University where my dad had wrestled. So I went there my first year. And then while I was there, they cut the wrestling program. So then I transferred to Boise State.
Jim: Wow, OK. So did you overlap with Kirk White? Probably, I don’t know if you’d overlapped with Kirk White or not.
Russell: Kind of. So when I was a B.Y.U., that was the year that Kirk won NCAs. And so, they came to B.Y.U. and we wrestled. I wrestled Larry Quisel who ended up taking second. And I lost to Larry. And then I saw Kirk beat our guy. So anyway, it was funny because then the next year, I was up there.
Jim: Yeah. Kirk won the National Championship my senior year; ’99. And I remember watching Larry wrestle. The one year I know he took third, he lost in the first round, the pigtails. And he came back and I think he won seven straight, which is just insane to do at the National Championships.
Russell: Well, it’s kind of funny. So Larry lives right by me. I don’t know if you know this but I got a wrestling room we built in our new home. So he comes once a week and we beat the crap out of each other now.
Jim: Nice. So you’re still on the mats?
Russell: Oh yeah. Until I can’t walk, I will always be on the mats. I love it too much.
Jim: Yeah, it’s awesome. That is awesome. So share with us how you got from there wrestling at Boise State, to here at what you doing now. Which I know is a big story, so fill us in. fill in the gap there.
Russell: Yeah. So you’ve been reading my book; when I was 12 or 13 years old, I got exposed a little bit to this whole world. I was watching infomercials with this guy, Don Lapre, talking about making money with tiny, little classified ads. And I got this little taste of it back then. And prior for like two years, I was ordering all this junk mail. I was reading all these direct mail, sales letters on how to get rich through direct mail, through 1-900 numbers and all these things. So I learned about it back then. And then I started wrestling and I kind of forgot about it. That was kind of over.
But my first year at Boise State – so it would have been my red shirt sophomore year – I met my wife, fell in love and we got engaged. And after we got engaged, my dad told me – because he was kind of supporting me so I can keep wrestling – “Hey, just so you know, if you get married, you’re kind of on your own.” I was like, “What? I’m not making any money. I got my scholarship but that doesn’t cover anything. I can’t eat.” He’s like, “Yeah, when you’re married you’re on your own.”
I was like “Oh crap.” So I was like I got to figure out a way to make some money because I’m not quitting wrestling and I’m totally getting married. So I got to figure out some other alternative reality because those two things are happening no matter what. So I got to figure out some way to make money. So I started just looking for opportunities. Like how can I make money? What’s possible? It’s actually funny; there was this late night infomercial on, talking about how they were doing a seminar at the local Holiday Inn, teaching people how to get rich on the Internet. I was like “Sweet, I am in for that.”
So I called the number, went to the Holiday Inn and listened to that pitch. And what’s interesting is that the stuff they were talking about was really similar to the stuff I had learned about when I was 12 about direct mail. But the reason why I never did direct mail . . . I remember vividly as a 12-year old then talking about like you ran a list of 100,000 people. Then you send out letters to those 100,000 people. Say you get a 3% that say yes, when you do the math, it’s a ton a money. But the problem was I couldn’t afford postage back then. I was 12 years old, right. Stamps were expensive and sending out 100,000 letters with stamps, it was not even possible.
But I was sitting in this event and this guy was talking about email and everything he said was almost identical to what I heard when I was 12. But instead of like printing out letters and stuffing them in envelopes and putting on postage, you just send out emails. I was like “Are you kidding me?” Like, I can do this. I understand. Everything clicked in my head and I remember at the thing, they pitched me like a $5,000 something that I didn’t have but I bought because I was so sold.
Jim: Wow, you bought it there?
Russell: Oh, I totally bought it there on credit cards, which I had just gotten engaged to my wife. She would have killed me. I remember the website hosting was like $100 a month. I got home that night and I was doing some research on Google and I found out hosting was like $5 a month. And I was like “Oh, I think I got scammed.” So I called the next day and I refunded the whole thing. But then, I had this bug in my head where I was like, “OK, I know I got to create a product. I got to set up a website. I got to get people to buy it. I got to build an email list.”
And that began my whole journey, and that was about 12 years ago now. Honestly, the first year and a half, two years, there wasn’t much traction. Everyone saw that I sold something on eBay and that was about all that would happen. But I started learning what was working and what other people were doing. I was watching really close, people that were successful. I saw most of them had this weird, long sales letters and I was so confused, it looked weird. But they had these long sales letters and they were buying ads and driving traffic. And I kept seeing this same process happening with dozens of people, selling all sorts of different things.
And I’m not that good at business. I wasn’t good at of those kinds of things but I’m smart enough to look at patterns and see like, “Wow, all these people making money are doing the same things. There’s an ad. You click on it. It goes to a page that has a long letter. You read something. Then you click on a button and you buy. I just got to do something kind of like that.” And one of the first ones I ever did it with was a product called “How to Make a Potato Gun.”
Jim: Yeah, I remember seeing that.
Russell: Yeah. I was learning this stuff when I was in college and I had buddy who him and I had built potato guns during spring break one weekend. And I was like, “You know, I wonder if I could do this, selling a DVD on how to make potato guns?” And I did a little market research with my limited knowledge and skills back then, and found out there are about 18,000 people a month searching for potato guns. And there was nobody selling anything about that. And I was like, there’s an opportunity. I don’t know how much I can make on it but there’s something there. So I wrote my first long-form sales letter. I tried to model it the way other people did it. We recorded a DVD of us making a potato gun and we started selling it.
That’s how it began and that worked. Well, it wasn’t making millions but it was making me $20 – $30 a day at its peak, which as a college, is insane. That’s so much money. So that’s kind of how it started. And then I tried different little ideas and I tried different things. Each one got a little bit bigger and little bit better. And we fast-forward now, 10 years and we got a couple of big companies that I never in a million years dream this was possible. But it’s where I am right now, so it’s pretty fun.
Jim: Yeah man, what a ride. And I’ve heard that story before and read it in the book, and just kind of following you over the years, and it’s just such an incredible story. I love the fact that you started selling information products on potato guns online. I built potato guns in college and never thought of turning that into a business. But you saw opportunity because you had an obstacle in front of you. You had to make money and you saw opportunity, and you turned that obstacle into an opportunity. That’s pretty cool. And so at DotComSecrets, your company, I think your tagline is something where you teach people to turn their passion into profits, right?
Jim: We all have passions, right? Can anyone do that?
Russell: I think anyone can. I always say, I’ve seen so many people do it in so many weird spots but a lot of people won’t. That’s a bigger thing. And we’ve been trying to make tools and script and things to make it easier but there’s work that goes into it. I remember my senior year in Boise State, I had a creativity class and in the creativity class we had to make something creative and present it in class. So I had made a membership site during that semester and I launched it. I think it was $30 or $37 a month and I had 300 to 400 people that had joined it. So I presented this to the class and I think it was making – I don’t know, I can’t remember – $5,000 or $6,000 a month at the time.
And I showed it and my teacher was this little Indian guy named Dr. Murali and he was all excited, jumping around afterwards. He was like, “Did you guys understand what he just did? He took this took out of his head and he made this things that’s now making $5,000 or $6,000 a month. What questions do you have for him?” And everyone in my class is just kind of staring blankly at me. I remember one kid’s like leaning back in his chair and he raises his hand and he’s like, “Hey, that seems really cool and all but it seems like a lot of work.”
I remember laughing thinking yeah, it was a lot of work upfront. It was like pushing a boulder up the mountain. But now that it’s done, it’s making me $5,000 or $6,000 a month without me doing anything. And it seemed like what path that you’re on of working for the rest of your life, that seems like way more work than what I’m doing. And it just made me kind of laugh, but that’s definitely the thought process of how these things start. It’s work upfront. But after you figure it out, then it’s not that bad. And I think anyone that makes it past that initial learning curve can be successful in almost any market. I’ve seen people selling the weirdest stuff successfully. So yeah.
Jim: Yeah, you know. It’s interesting, a friend of mine, Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman he was a UFC fighter. I think I had him on Episode 3 or 4, jimharshawjr.com/4 I think is where you’ll find that episode. But anyway, Charlie was telling me that he’s creating a course right now, just like I have a course called ‘Reveal your Path.’ It’s a four-week program. It’s a life design program. It’s goal-setting on steroids.
We take former athletes and help them recreate the environment and the structure that they had in their life as an athlete into the real world. It’s a lot of work. It was so much work, setting up the program the first time but I’m going through it now with my third group. And so much of the work is done. The legwork’s done and Charlie was telling me the other day, “Man, it’s so much work, putting this thing together.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but once you get it together and you tweak it, you improve it, you get feedback and you update it. But that’s the grunt work upfront.”
Russell: Yeah. I remember Matt Furey telling me one time – I’m not sure if you know Matt or not.
Jim: I do, yeah. I don’t know if he knows me but I know who he is.
Russell: Yeah. He had written Combat Conditioning. I remember he said that he spent two days taking the pictures, everything. But as soon as those three days’ work was done, that point forward, he’s never had to work since because he just keeps buying it and shipping it out. And that’s all you do. The thing about that way, yeah, you got to front-load a whole bunch of work but man, it’s worth it when it’s done.
Jim: Yeah, no kidding. So a lot of people think of Internet marketing and they think of the thing that happened to you; scam. You got scammed the first time you did this, right? $5,000 and you realize “Wait a second, I’m paying too much for the hosting.” What do you say to people like that?
Russell: You know, I try to explain yes, there are scams out there. They are everywhere. But the biggest thing is understanding that the Internet business is no different than any other business. I always get into these arguments with people who are like, “Well, that doesn’t work for my business” or whatever. But the Internet is just like a channel. It’s like T.V. or a radio or whatever. It’s just a really efficient, low-cost way to get your message across or sell your product or your service. So when people are trying to sell you on some crazy, weird scams, yeah, those are probably scams. But using the Internet as a tool to sell a product or a service is no different than saying “I have a radio-based business. I drive radio ads to sell my thing.” It’s a media channel.
Jim: Yeah, you can get scammed by the guys driving down your street who have a pick-up truck that say “I’ll come in and fix your furnace” or something like that. There’s scams everywhere.
Russell: Yeah. But the thing about media channels, it’s just something you can really efficiently target people who actually want to buy your stuff. That’s amazing. That’s the magic of it, right? I was talking to Tony Robbins a couple of years ago about his transition and he said when he got started, there was three T.V. channels; ABC, NBC and CBS. He was like, “I was just on all three of those channels all the time and everybody knew who I was and we made all this money.
But then what happened is that cable came out and all of a sudden, there’s like 200 channels. I can’t afford to be on all 200 channels. It gets really, really hard.” But what’s cool was there’s channels just for cooking or just for fishing. So if you got a cooking product, now you can just buy ads on that one T.V. channel and it’s really easy to be profitable whereas before, it would be almost impossible because there’s no targeting.
And that’s what makes the Internet so powerful, is that I can go and only show my ads to people on Facebook who love exactly what I’m trying to sell. Or people on Google who are actively today searching for what I sell. So it’s the best platform in the world because we can target things so closely, it makes it much cheaper whereas back in the day, if you wanted to target everybody, it’s hard to be profitable. It just doesn’t work. So yeah, people think it’s a scam. It’s like saying T.V. is a scam, right? It’s a channel and you understand it that way, hopefully it makes more sense to people.
Jim: So for the listener that is going “Man, this sounds awesome. I want to create a product. I want to sell and I want to be like Matt Furey, you know, who created this product and did all the front-end work and now he’s just selling it and making the money on it.” This is the huge question, so give us the condensed version, but like where do you start? And I got my suggestion. I think everybody should go to your website and buy your book. They should certainly buy DotComSecrets. But what’s Step 1?
Russell: Yeah, so I kind of have a three-step process where I always look at when I’m trying to do something. And I share it with people as well because – at least for me – it helped so much. So these are the three steps. Step number 1 is you got to find a hot market. So you got to find a market where people are already buying things. It’s funny, most people take that backwards. They go “Oh, I wanted to sell this. But looks like there’ three other people selling it.” And that’s actually the wrong approach. You want people selling it. I want to go into a market where there’s 10,000 people all selling stuff in that market because I know it’s a hot market and they buy stuff, and they buy a lot of things.
So the first step is to find a hot market. Find a market where there’s a lot of other people already selling things too. If they’re not selling things in that market, then that’s actually a bad sign. You don’t want to be the pioneer. You want to be the people saying, “Wow, there’s a lot of people selling weight loss stuff. A lot of people selling jujitsu stuff, or wrestling stuff or tennis,” whatever that market is. But first step is finding a hot market that is actively buying stuff. The second thing is that a lot of times, we just assume that we know what those people want so we start creating products based on what we think that they’re going to want to buy. And that’s actually backwards.
Step number 2 is asking them what they want. So when I identified markets, like the potato gun market for example, it wasn’t a super-hot market but it was a warm market. So we found the warm market and I asked everyone. I was like “OK, I built a potato gun course. What are you guys looking for?” We set up a little page that just asked that question, “What would you guys want to know in a potato gun course?” And we started driving some basic ads to it, and it was cool. All these people came to the page and they started telling me what they wanted. They’re like “Hey, I’m just curious what’s the right barrel-to-chamber volume ratio?” I didn’t know that was a real thing but people kept asking me that. So I went down the answer. Some people were saying “Should the PSIs be on the pipes and what’s the best kind of glue, the best kind of propellant?” They told me exactly what they wanted. So when I created my DVD, I didn’t have to go and think “OK, what do these guys want?” They told me. I needed to know answers to all these questions so I researched and found the answers and I came back and I created exactly what they wanted.
So that’s the process; step 1, find a hot market. Step 2, ask them what they want. Step 3 is create that and give it to them. And that’s really the basics of it. Most people that struggle in business is because they’re doing it out of order. They go to a market that’s not hot, that doesn’t like buying stuff. Or they find a hot market but then they just assume that they are on the right thing and they just start creating stuff that people don’t even want. It’s usually one of those mistakes. But if you do it that find; find a hot market, ask them what they want and you create exactly what they asked you for, it’s hard to not succeed because they’re telling you what they want. You just have to go and create that. That’s kind of how I look at it.
Jim: For the listener, if you listened to Episode 49 with Doug Muir who’s another successful entrepreneur that started with absolutely nothing and built several multi-million dollar companies; same thing. He talked about asking the customer “What do you want?” It’s interesting because my first company that I started – I guess it was probably my second or third company when you think about it – it was a window-cleaning company. Window-cleaning, power wash, we did all kinds of services, and there was a lot of other people in town doing the same thing.
And I jumped into the market, did as good or a better job as anybody else, grew it, sold it and it was successful. And then I started another company that there was no competition. There was nobody out there. I got an investor, we built a software and I thought we had the next best thing; the best thing since sliced bread. And it failed because I didn’t do exactly what you said first; validating and finding out what they wanted. And it’s interesting Russell, because whenever I finally shut that software down, I just sort of discovered that philosophy of asking questions; calling the customers and just asking them. Exploratory calls. I called about 20 people and they told me exactly what they wanted so I created a wireframe of a software. I created a little YouTube video, screencast it and showed it to them. 20 out of 20 said “When’s it done? I’ll buy it tomorrow. Where do I sign up?” So it’s exactly what you said, I did it backwards. So that’s a huge, huge lesson for any entrepreneurs who want to be entrepreneurs out there. So shift gears a little bit, Russell. You have a family. You’ve got several uber-successful businesses. How do you maintain balance? How do you maintain work-life balance?
Russell: You know, balance is hard and there’s a lot of times where you can’t be in balance. You can’t be successful. You look at our lives and in our lives, there are different seasons, right? When I was wrestling, my life was completely imbalanced towards wrestling. I didn’t do anything else except for wrestling and that’s how I became great. When I met my wife and I fell in love with her, my balance shifted to her and that’s what made that great; is that I fell in love and my focus is there. When I started my business, I was lucky I started it at a time where I didn’t have kids and all these other things happening. So my balance shifted there.
So for me, it’s like everyone wants this thing called balance. But it’s hard to be balanced and to be great at anything. So I’m not a huge believer in that. But I’m a big believer in focusing on where things are and like putting as much as my energy into that as possible to get what I need, and then shifting it back quickly. So that’s kind of my overall philosophy. Right now, companies are working well. I’ve got amazing teams of people around me that are helping to push things forward and stuff like that. So the biggest thing I do in my life – and I learned this from Tony Robbins and I try to do it.
I’m not perfect at it by any stretch, my wife will attest to that. But what I try to do is wherever I am at, I try to be completely present there. Like when I’m here in the office, working – and I work from 9 or 10 o’ clock to about 5 or 6, on typical working days – I’m here. I’m focused. I’m present. I’m getting stuff done the entire time. When I’m home with my kids, I put things away and I’m present, I’m there with 100% of focus. So for me, I kind of have my day segmented up. And wherever I’m at, I try to just be present there as 100% as I can.
And it’s amazing how much more stuff you can get done. I read an article one time that said the average employee during an 8-hour work day gets like an hour and a half worth of work done. And it’s because they’re not present there. They’re doing other things. They’re checking Facebook. All these things are happening. I try to be as present as I can and move things forward. And it’s amazing if you work an actual 8-hour day and you get 8 hours of work done. Very few people do that. You’re getting what most people get done in a week. If you do 5 or 6 days like that, it’s insane. So I think a big part of it is like when I’m moving things forward, I’m there, present and forward. We get a lot more stuff done that way. So there’s a couple of things.
Jim: Yeah, I’m 100% with you there. I get so much done at work now when I’m clear on what I need to get done for the day. And I stay in present in the moment at all times. And I use something called the Pomodoro technique. It’s just a productivity technique. Just Google it and you’ll know what it is. But I also do something; I set a timer. If I know it’s a day where I just don’t feel focused, I’ll put on a timer on the Internet and it’ll beep every 15 minutes. And it’s just a reminder to get on task. Get back to work, in case you go down a rabbit hole on the Internet somewhere.
On your podcast, ‘Marketing in your Car,’ . . . which is awesome for any marketers or entrepreneurs listening, check out ‘Marketing in your Car.’ It’s a great podcast; short episodes where Russell just shares his wisdom. It’s good stuff. But recently, you were talking about waking up at 5 am and developing a morning routine. And by the way, I know you mentioned it wakes up your wife. So I get up at 5 am every day too. I’ve been doing it for about a little over a year, a year and a half now. And when I started doing, I used to wake my wife up and she’d get angry at me every morning.
So now I have a Jawbone and I set it to vibrate at 5 o’clock every morning. So it just vibrates and it wakes me up. So it’s a good little tip for you.
Russell: Oh, that’s cool. I wonder if it’ll wake me up or I’ll sleep through it.
Jim: You’d wake up. It rattles you. When you’re dead asleep and you got this thing on your wrist just going bzzz, I guarantee it’ll wake you up. But how’s that going? Morning routine? Do you believe in routines and sort of getting into that peak performance state, that peak competitive state that you got into when you were a wrestler? Do you do the same thing? I know you got a cryo thing in your house. You got a float tank. Tell me about that.
Russell: Those are coming. The cryo and the float tank will be here by the end of the month. So we’re getting those. I’m a big believer in routines, especially the morning ones. It’s weird, the mornings that I follow my routine, I get more done and the days I don’t, the whole days seems to always be off. It’s interesting. I think if people spend more time really focusing the gauge initially, it just changes the projection the whole day. So it was about three and a half, three weeks ago I started doing the 5 am thing. And I’d say three to four days right now, I’m doing it. The hardest thing I found – I don’t know if you feel the same way – is to get to bed on time. I used to go to bed at 1 or 2 every morning. Now I’m trying to get to bed like 10 or 11. It’s like super hard to do that, you know what I mean?
Jim: Yeah, we’re like packing school lunches after we get the kids to bed, I’m packing my lunch. I’m having a conversation with my wife which I haven’t done in 24 hours. So yeah, it’s a lot to do.
Russell: And my wife’s not on the whole 5 am thing yet. So she wants to sleep in in the morning and she wants to stay up late with me. And I’m like . . . ahh. So it’s just those little things. But yeah, it’s interesting. I get around from 5 till 7, I’m basically working and focusing on those kinds of things. That’s when my kids get up. So from 7 till 9 now I’m getting them ready, doing breakfast, the whole morning routine. And then they leave.
Jim: How many kids you have?
Jim: Five, yeah. Awesome. I got four so I’m right behind you.
Russell: You can try to catch up, it’ll be good.
Jim: No thanks, we’re good.
Russell: No, it’s fun. But yeah, that’s kind of the thing. I used to wake up early. I used to wake up at 6 and that’s when I would go out to my wrestling room and lift and stuff like that. So I’m trying to shift that around where my kids go to school, that’s when I’ll slide that in. But the nice thing I’m finding is that as the person who’s the CEO or the entrepreneur of the company that’s pushing things forward, the more I get done before everyone else wakes up, when everyone wakes up and they know the direction that I’m running, the less I have to do the rest of the day.
It’s kind of interesting. So by me getting up two hours earlier to work from 5 till 7, I’m moving a whole bunch of things forward and I’m handing that back off to my team. And then they will run. So I can show up way later at the office or I don’t even have to show up at all, and more stuff gets done than if I just showed up [inaudible 00:30:51] they’re doing and we’re trying to get things moving. So that’s one of the biggest impacts I’ve seen. Everything else flows faster if I do the whole earlier morning routine thing.
Jim: Yeah, I’m a big believer in waking up early to get that quite time, focus time. Phone’s not ringing, text messages aren’t coming in. It’s a good time. So Russell, you were a high school state champion, Division 1 athlete, you started business and now you got these multi-million dollar companies. Everything’s just success, success, success. And that’s what we see, right? We see the Russell Brunson who everything he touches turns to gold. Everything works great. Everything’s unicorns and rainbows in your life. I ask all my guests, can you share with us a time when you failed or when you struggled or when you faced significant adversity, you had self-doubt and you have to overcome that to get to where you’re at now?
Russell: It’s funny because I had a call from one of our coaching clients yesterday actually. And they were stressing about “What if this thing doesn’t work?” I’m like “The best thing about things not working on the Internet is that nobody knows.” I know people [inaudible 00:31:58] asking me, “Oh, that thing you did was amazing. We bought it. It was so great!” and I’m like, “You’re the only one that bought that when nobody else knows.” So that’s kind of cool, knowing that you got your outside persona. But I would love to go rounds with anyone on failures. I think I probably failed more than almost anyone I know because we were moving so fast all the time and I think that I’m OK with failure. A lot of it is because of wrestling.
A lot of people when they fail, they take it so personally, it’s hard for them to progress. Whereas for me, I was never like the undefeated wrestler. I would lose, and then I would figure out how to beat the guy the next time. And then I would lose. I kept getting incrementally better every match, every single thing and luckily, it peaked at the right times to hit a lot of my goals. And for me, it’s not like this devastating thing. It’s like “OK, what are the adjustments we need to make? That guy hit me in the head and almost pinned me. What do I need to change different this time?” So for me, that’s kind of how I look at things.
But definitely, the biggest failure I’ve ever had – I don’t talk about it too often – was probably six years ago. We built up my company and at the time, we had about 100 employees here in Boise. We had 60 sales people, 20 coaches and about 20 marketers who were driving leads for this company we had built. And from the outside, it looked amazing. Things were selling, we were hiring coaches, we had seminars. It was a machine and it worked really, really good. The problem is that the margins were really paper thin and so month by month, it worked but if something bad happened we could have been in big trouble. And in January that year – I think it was January 16th of something – for some reason, we had I think 14 merchant accounts all in the same bank, and that day, all of them got turned off. I remember my tech guy coming in like “Hey, all of our reoccurring billings are failing.” And I’m like OK, that’s kind of weird.
And then, couple of my sales guys came up and said “Hey, we’re trying to run a card and it’s failing. What’s happening?” And I was like, huh. So I tried to call the merchant account company and what I didn’t realize at the time, Visa and MasterCard were putting a lot of pressure down on merchants and the bank that we were using got a lot of pressure from just their portfolio clients. So that day, there’s like over 300 people that they shut off. It was basically like you are guilty until proven innocent. And it took about two days to get on the phone with anybody. And finally I got on the phone, “Well, prove that you’re not a bad guy.” I was like “How do I prove that?”
Jim: Call my mom.
Russell: Yeah, “My mom thinks I’m great.” And so, we had to just put together a campaign to prove that we weren’t bad and we were doing things the right way. And it took us about a week to get our output together and submit it to them and to get the reviews. We’re two weeks in and finally, they’re like “OK, you convinced us you’re good guys,” and they turned all of our stuff back on. But two weeks of no cash flow coming in, we got a hundred employees, a lot of people freaking out so we had people leaving. We had just a whole bunch of scary things. So that happened. And as soon as we’re back on, “Hey guys, we’re back in business.”
So we just do this big roll-out, just try to get a bunch of cash in really quick. The other thing I can think about is with a hundred employees within 20,000 sq/ft building, our payroll, we’re looking at $300,000 to $400,000 a month just to cover the overhead. And so it’s crazy. So we get the merch accounts turned back on. We do a big launch. We make $250,000 or so. And I’m like “Hey guys, we got money, enough to cover payroll. We’re good.” But then, the money never came in. I’m like “Why is the money not coming in?” I’m freaking out.
So I call the merchant account and they looked at it and they’re like “Oh, the reason why money’s not being deposited into your account is you’re on 100% reserve.” I was like “What? That doesn’t make any sense. Why am I on 100% reserve?” And they’re like “I don’t know, your account’s tagged as that.” So I’m like “OK. Well, I have to get the money so I can pay for fulfilment.” They’re like, “OK, we’ll turn it down to 10% but all the money you processed the last two weeks, we’re going to keep it in a reserve for six months.” I was like “Are you kidding me?” so I go back to my team and like “Hey, you know that quarter million dollars we made to cover payroll?” we get it in six months from now so I’ll pay you guys then.” Yeah, that doesn’t go very well with people.
So we had that, and we tried to open another merchant account. And then we processed too much money too fast so that got shut down and froze for another 180 days. That whole year, it was just horrible. Every week I had to come in and fire 10 new people. Most of the people who worked for me are my friends, family members or they had become friends. We’re so small of a company, we hung out with each other. I knew their kids and it was just hard. It was like every single week for a year that was happening to the point where at the end of the year, we had no more money left in the bank account.
We couldn’t survive and I didn’t know what to do. Like, I was scared. It was just this horrible thing. And about that time, I got a call from my dad who’s helping look at my books and he said “Hey, I got really bad news. For some reason, your bookkeeper hasn’t paid payroll taxes in the last year. You owe the government” – I can’t remember, it was like $350,000. And he’s like “Just so you know, if you don’t pay payroll tax, it’s not like they slap you with a fine. They put you in jail. So you need to come up with $350,000 as soon as humanly possible.”
Russell: And I was like broke. Every penny I had ever earned had been given back to try and keep the doors open. And I didn’t know what to do. So I went in and that time, we still had a sales team of probably 20 or so people and they got a bunch of fear and anxiety. It was like the next day, I walked into the office and all 20 of them were gone. The whole team had quit. So I’m like sales team’s gone. I owe the government this money. I don’t know what to do. I’m in this huge office building. So we left the building behind, hoping and praying we weren’t going to get sued because of our lease.
We moved into this tiny, little building and tried to figure out, like “We got to figure out some way to survive.” I talked about this in the DotComSecrets book a little bit; I remembered waking up almost every morning, wishing that I had a boss so that I could get fired. It’s like, “How great it would be to be able to walk away from this?” If I quit, two things will happen. First off, we had sold a whole bunch of coaching that we had outstanding liabilities on. I had to fulfil on coaching because if I quit, I’d ruin my name. And if I quit, I’d probably end up in jail.
And I was like I can’t quit, I have to keep moving forward. And I wish I could tell you the next day, we figured out the magic key and it all worked, but it didn’t. It was another six or seven months of like grinding and grinding and trying to figure things out, making just enough money to keep the doors open. And about that time, one of my friends had started doing what was probably one of the first ever automated webinars. And he showed me the model and said “Hey man, this is working really good for us. You should try it out.” I said “OK,” and I put all my chips in this basket.
We spent 30 days writing this webinar pitch and putting this funnel on building this whole thing out. And we rolled it out and within 90 days, we made a million dollars. We paid off the IRS, we paid off our back debts and we’re back to like ground zero. And we’re like [sigh], now we can start progressing again. That was it. It was almost two years of just like insane.
Jim: Yeah, sleepless nights, I bet, huh?
Russell: Oh yeah, a lot of sleepless nights. Then, we got back to ground zero. I don’t know, I can’t tell you the feeling of relief that came through us; that came through me. And the coolest thing was that was done, then it was like we had this chance to feel like “What do we want to be when we grow up? We could be anything now.” I feel like I was out of bondage so that’s when, “We got to start creating again. What do we want to create? What do we want to do?” That’s when we came out with the supplement. We came out with a bunch of other fun new businesses we’re trying out. And on the back of that was where ClickFunnels came from. It was an idea for a project we had that we put together that’s become the biggest thing we’ve ever done. But that came out of that fear. So for entrepreneurs who are struggling or have struggled in the past, I relate to that so well. And I know when you get back to that point of certainty and feeling good, it gives you that platform you need to be able to scale and launch the next thing you want to do.
Jim: Yeah. Wow. What a story.
Russell: I should make a movie out of it someday. It would make everyone want to cry. It made me want to cry.
Jim: Yeah. I mean again, we look at you and we go “Oh, just success, success, success the whole way through” and we don’t see that struggle; that adversity, that setback. And I talked about that. I did a TEDx talk and most of it was about my failures and my journey to become a Division 1 All-American. And I talk about failure’s a necessary step on the path to success. You fail. When you’re an athlete, you learn that because you’re guaranteed to fail as an athlete in whatever sport. In wrestling or otherwise, you’re guaranteed to fail along the way and it’s the same way in life.
You’re going to struggle, you’re going to fail, you’re going to get injured, you’re going to have setback, you’re going to have the government come down on you for silly things like that and crush your business. And you got to keep pushing forward, and you didn’t quit. You didn’t fold. You found success on the other side. Holy cow. Amazing. So my listeners like to get actionable items out of these. So can you offer one thought; one action that you can recommend that the listener can take in the next 24 to 48 hours to start moving toward their goals? To start creating the success in the life that they really want?
Russell: Definitely. So in my community, we have this concept we call Funnel Hacking. It’s all about figuring out what’s working. I told you earlier the first key is finding a hot market, right? So let’s say you know you want to start a business and “I know I’m going to be in the wrestling market,” or the golf market, or the weight loss. Whatever you pick, “This is the business I want to have.” The first step then is to go find somebody else who’s crushing it in that. When I started wrestling – I remember my 8th grade year wrestling – was horrible. I remember my dad – I don’t know if you really told me that, like “Wow, you’re really not good.”
And so what we did is we went and we found this kid in my high school who’s a three-time state champion. That was his senior year and he was going to be a three-timer. So my dad and I would go to all the matches and he would film – this guy’s name is Matt Wood – he would film Matt wrestling and we’d watch it. And Matt was like the king at cheap tilts and all these things. So we’d film it and my dad and I would go home and we’d drill it over and over and over and over and over again. If you look at it like in my wrestling world – I’m not like a famous wrestler – I was famous for the cheap tilt. I turned everyone. There’s no one that I can’t turn in a cheap tilt. Like, that is my move and it’s because when I was in 8th grade, I would watch films of Matt Wood doing cheap tilt after cheap tilt over and over and over again.
So I Funnel Hacked Matt and I saw what he had that was working and I modelled it. Same thing to business. I know I want to launch a business in financial; say I’m going to launch a financial newsletter. I’m going to go find who are the people right now who have successful financial newsletters and we have to funnel-hack them. What funnel hacking mean is you have to go to the website, and then you got to do every entrepreneur has to become good at doing; you got to actually pull your credit card out of your wallet and you got to buy their thing.
If you look from the website, you see outside. You see “Oh, he’s selling the newsletter for $30 a month.” But that’s like the tip of the iceberg. That only works because of a whole bunch of things happening behind the scenes. After you buy that $30 month thing, what’s the up-sell? What’s the down-sell? What are the email sequences that are coming out? Where is the traffic coming from to get there? So the actionable thing I would say is find someone who’s got the business of your dreams and you got to funnel-hack them.
You got to get deep into them. You got to buy what they have. You got to look at everything, take pictures and screenshots of every single page because then you’re going to know exactly what you need to do to create. When I funnel-hacked Matt Wood and I saw how to do a cheap tilt and we learned it, we mastered it, I became amazing at it. Same thing with this. When I go into new businesses, like when we launched our supplement, it wasn’t me just thinking “OK, I’m going to put up a website and sell supplement.” I found people who were doing three, four, five million dollars a month selling supplements, I bought their stuff and I modelled it.
If you look at my funnel versus theirs, I didn’t copy anything but structurally, they’re very similar. I modelled their look, their feel, their price points, their upsell sequences, everything, because these guys had proven that they work. They had spent millions of dollars testing these things. And so our goal is to figure out what people already know works and we can model it. So the biggest takeaway that someone can do today is to do that. So for me, if you’re just beginning, the easiest place is to go to clickbait.com. On the top, there’s a tab that says ‘Affiliate Marketplace,’ you click on that and there’s over a hundred thousand sales funnels from every business you can dream of.
There’s how to make your own chicken coop, how to lose weight, how to garden, how to fish, like everything is in there. Find someone in there who’s doing what you want to do, and then funnel-hack them. Buy their product to see what the process is and that’s where I would begin at.
Jim: Yeah. Maybe we should funnel-hack you.
Russell: Yeah, might as well.
Jim: I’ve gone through your funnel and it’s amazing. And if you don’t know what a funnel is folks, check it out. Follow Russell. Go to his website, go to DotComSecrets. Go to clickfunnels.com and check out what he’s doing. But last question; if you could sit down with your 20-year old self and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Russell: So many of us folks are like “What’s the best product to sell? What’s the best thing,” whatever. I have a story that I’ll tell real quick and then I’ll try and come back. I had a friend. He was an 18-year old kid; just graduated high school and he was between going to college and he was trying to get a job and he couldn’t get a job anywhere. He tried a whole bunch of places, he couldn’t get one. And so finally, he gave up “You know, I’m just going to go and work for free and see what happens.” So he went to the local mall and he walked into a clothing store. It’s like his dream job, like “I would love to work here,” so he walked in and he started folding clothes.
He was folding clothes and he got it all done, and he walked up to the manager and was like “Hey, can I help with anything else?” He’s like, “Uh, no. we’re good. Thanks man.” He’s like, “All right. See you later,” and he left. Next day he comes back again, starts folding clothes, putting things on hanger, starts sweeping up and the manager comes back and like “What are you doing?” He’s like “Oh, I got nothing else to do. I thought I’d come help you guys. I think your store is cool. I’d love to work here so I might as well jut come work for free.” And the guy was like “Do you want a job?” And he’s like “Yeah, I would love a job,” and he got a job.
And I think that’s the mindset. All of us feel like we’re entitled, for some reason. We’re not. Like none of us are entitled to anything. So we got to prove ourselves and we know that in sports. We know that in wrestling. The only way I can be on the starting team is I’ve got to beat the guy in front of me, whoever that is. Like, you got to prove yourself. So I would say to my 20-year old self, “Quit trying to figure out what you’re going to sell, how you’re going to sell. Pick a product, whatever that is, and then go out there and work for free for someone. Go and try it out or test it out, and if that things get that personal result, then you got something now that you can sell.”
So let’s just say I was going to join network marketing program, like instead of buying the pills and potions and trying to pitch it to my friends and family, I would buy a whole bunch of them and I’ll give them to everybody I know for free. Like “Look, try this out. If you like it let me know. I want to know what result you get from it.” And I would get them a result first and if they get a good result, then I’d capture that result. I’d film it or whatever and capture that result. And that will become the sales tool that will build my company for me.
If I was going to go and launch a coaching program for example . . . when I launched my coaching program, that’s what I did. The first thing I did is I found someone that would be like my dream client and I called them up and I said, “Hey man, can I work for free?” He was like “Sure, if you want to work free.” So I went out there and I worked for free for him and I transformed their business. And after I did that, he made a video talking about the experience and I use that video to launch my coaching program that currently does about $2.5 million a year in sales.
And it wasn’t me going out there and trying to convince people I’m the best coach in the world. It was me going out there and working for free, showing people the results I can get them and taking that and leveraging it to get the rest of the clients I want. So my 20-year old self, I would say “Look, figure out what path you want to go on, whatever that is. And then go and work for free. And if you do that, the results come from you proving yourself and earning it will be the fuel that helps you achieve everything else you want in life.”
Jim: Man, what a simple message; hustle. Get out there and work and don’t be entitled. Love it. Great message, Russell. So how can the listener find you, follow you? Where do we go to get your stuff and check out what you’re doing?
Russell: The easiest place, if you go to dotcomsecretsbook.com, you can get a free copy of my book. And I would suggest if you do that, go and buy it slowly. Like, funnel-hack me. I spent six months planning and scheming out that funnel and it works. So you get a free book but watch the sales process. That would be worth the $7.95 you pay for shipping. You’re just watching what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. And the second place, if you want the tool that almost every entrepreneur in our market right now is using to grow their business and build their sales funnels, we have a tool called ClickFunnels that you can go and get free two-week trial at clickfunnels.com, and that’s kind of it.
Jim: Amazing. Russell, this is gold. Awesome, awesome stuff. Great stories, great advice. I appreciate you coming on the show.
Russell: Yeah, no worries man. I appreciate you having me. It’s fun to talk about business and wrestling. That doesn’t happen often in the same conversation.
Jim: Yeah, no kidding. And for the listener, jimharshawjr.com/50. That’s jimharshawjr.com slash five zero. I’ll have the download the action plan from this episode. You can just get all the good stuff that Russell shared, all the links and all the tips and all the tactics, everything he just shared. Until next time, just like when you were an athlete, take the time to get clear on your goals and embrace failure as a stepping stone on your path to success.