July 6, 2022

Standing Out Amongst The Crowd: How To Win In Life and Work with James Quandahl - Ep. 52

Standing Out Amongst The Crowd

How To Win In Life and Work

James Quandahl is an entrepreneur, author, performance coach, and host of The James Quandahl Show: helping you live your life to the fullest, be present and connect deeply with others, and build the life of your dreams.

Quandahl has led teams for nearly two decades including two at Fortune 1000 companies and has coached hundreds of driven individuals to success.

James’s agencies help natural product brands sell more on Amazon and support authors in producing and launching best-selling books.

We talked about a variety of topics: interview tips, how James knew within 45 seconds if he's gonna hire somebody, podcasting, selling on Amazon, you name it, we talk about it!

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Links and Notes from the Episode

Episode Transcript
Please enjoy this transcript or our episode!

Please note the transcript may have a few errors. We're human. It can be hard to catch all the errors from a full length conversation. Enjoy!

Ryan: Aloha folks and welcome back to degree free I'm your host Ryan Maruyama, and on this podcast, we share fundamentals we've discovered and the mistakes we've made while self-educating getting work, building businesses and making money. Today my guest is James Quandahl. James Quandahl is an author, entrepreneur performance coach and host of the James Kandal show.

We have a. Very wide ranging conversation for you today, where we talk about interview tips, James' background in retail and how he knew within 45 seconds, whether he was gonna hire somebody. Tips that you can do during your interviews, the family board meeting. Podcasting selling on Amazon. You name it. We talk about it just as always, you can find links to everything in our show notes, degree.co/podcast.

This episode will be degreefree.co/jamesquandahl

J A M E S Q U A N D A H L. 

And without any further ado, please enjoy this conversation with James Quandahl.

What I think Of is if we were to give people the recipe of how to do it, they might not have the skills to cook it, basically. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but , if we were to tell them exactly, it reminds me of, have you ever read, the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris?

I know that you, I know that you read a lot, prolifically. And, so one of the things in there is the slow carb diet. And I think his supplement in one of his podcasts, he talks about how he doesn't give advice anymore. He doesn't tell people what to do, cuz he's like, I can tell you everything that you need to do in order to lose weight and build muscle and get the physique you want and it can fit on an index card, but I don't do that anymore because I've done it for so many people and they never end up doing it. And so instead, what he found is better is he's just like just buy my book and that's not necessarily pumping his book, although it is, indirectly, but it's just, if you take the time to go through it and commit yourself to those, , to those practices or to those ideas, then you'll have a better outcome.

James: He just released a podcast, Tim Ferris in the last couple weeks with Cal Newport and he was the author of Deep Work, which was another great book. And it was like this revisiting the four hour work week book and that book was life changing for me. Actually I hadn't read it when I first met Tim Ferris in, I think it was 2015.

 It was 2016 that I actually quit my job and decided. To create this life that I'm on now. And I'll give some of the credit to Timothy Ferris in that book, but it was so many other things, but the interesting thing is there has to be some type of a motivator, some type of event that takes you to say, well, this is enough, I need to do something different, and we were talking a little about weight loss and getting in shape. And there's always, you hear, you see these huge, radical transformations all the time. And if you go up to the person like, what did it, and it will be some story of some kind, like a family member's illness, or they got some diagnosis or there was something it's very rarely like, oh, I just decided one day I was gonna get in shape finally.

So I think the system is to figure out , what's gonna motivate you to get where you wanna go. And before we were recording, we were talking about goals. And I think you start with kind of a lofty, long term vision of where you wanna go. And then you need to somehow find that trigger that gets you walking on that journey.

And then the tools and the tactics, like you said about Tim, he mentioned on that podcast. The tools and the tactics are what kind of went buzzworthy like everyone wants the newest Chrome extension or the newest Google plugin to make their work quicker, but like the philosophy and the mindset are really what revolutionized your life.

And I think that's why he says you have to read the four hour chef or the four hour body or the four hour work week in its entirety, because he sets the book up to get you in the right frame of mind at the beginning. And then when you have the knowledge and the willingness, he gives you the tactics and the tools to go and do it.

Ryan: Right. 

Exactly. And I mean, I wholeheartedly subscribe to that and which it's what we do with the people that we help at Degree Free is we always, you have to start with why? Like, why are you gonna do, why are you gonna do anything? 

This stuff is hard. You have to get outta your comfort zone.

You have to do things that you've never done before. You have to talk to people that you you've never thought that you would ever talk to. Um, and what gets you outta bed in the morning? Like, why are you doing this? Is it because you want to build a better life? Is it because you wanna lose weight?

Is it because you want to right. Have a family and you can't afford it. 

James: And when you go on these journeys, trying to create a life that's Degree Free a hundred years ago, there weren't degrees really, probably very many. And so it wasn't that strange to not have a degree. It was actually more strange to have a degree.

So sometime in the last a hundred years, it became, if you don't get a degree, you will not be successful. So if you are a person listening to this and you're on the fence and you're choosing if you're gonna follow in the footsteps of what everyone's doing, or you're gonna go on your own path.

You just have to know that you're gonna be weird and you're gonna be different. And that might be the hardest thing, because for me, it's always like when people ask me what I do, it's not like I have a one word answer. It's depending on the week it could be anything it's my life is different every single day because I designed it this way.

And so I think that's always, what's really challenging is being different cuz it's hard to explain what you're doing and why. 

Ryan: Right.

Well, you know what's interesting is actually still only one third of the American population have degrees. Two thirds of the population still don't have degrees. So if you don't have a degree, which I'm, pretty sure you don't. You know, my wife doesn't.

James: I do not.

I went to, college twice and dropped out both times after less than a semester. I tried twice after the first time, I was like, all right. A few years later, I was a little more mature. I was paying cash as I went and I dropped out. I didn't even finish the first semester. And I went back and kept working.

I was like, let me try this again, just to make sure. And I went to one class and I was like, yep. And I blew whatever. I just paid it off. I didn't even ask for my money background. I think a better way to learn a lesson is just to sometimes lose the money. And then you will remember it a little bit longer, right?

Ryan: Yeah. You just take the L 

just take the loss. So did you go to community college or did you, was it, where were you enrolled or was it a four year college? 

James: It was two different community colleges actually. Okay. I thought maybe if I tried a different one, it would have a different experience and it was, it just wasn't there for me.

It just. I was already a manager of a clothing store. And I think at this point I was 18 or 19 years old and I was learning so much there, practical wisdom and skills. And then I went into a classroom and I'm like, I'm taking a Spanish class and an English class. I have 30 employees on my team who don't speak English and only speak Spanish.

And I'm learning Spanish from them. Why do I need Spanish 1 0 1? And why do I need this English class? Like, I, I just couldn't connect the dots on why I was needing that, and so I just stuck with the retail track and ended up being in retail 15 something years before I call it my retirement. And I learned so much there.

And I actually wrote an article once trying to persuade recruiters to hire retail managers instead of Harvard MBAs. And I said, these are all the skills that a retail manager has that a Harvard MBA may or may not have, but the retail manager for sure has it because I learned so much there. It's unbelievable.

Ryan: So what are those skills? Because we do a similar Hannah and I both have the same background in that we both come from the restaurant industry. And so we know that in, we know that inside and out and we feel the same way. Like we write, we, we write articles and we do podcast episodes about how people are making a mistake by not hiring restaurant employees, because they're so good at everything soft skills because they do it every day.

And so I'm not that versed in retail. What are the skills. 

James: It's similar to what you would expect in the restaurant industry. Absolutely. The customer service and the salesmanship. So we were selling appliances and televisions and going into homes and fixing televisions and installing televisions.

So you're in the weeds with a customer every single day for your entire shift. You can't, if you say, oh man, I wish there were no more customers today. Well, your building would be closed, and my store was a $25 million year revenue store, just to one building. There's so many startups. People that own startups that are writing all these books about leadership and advice and all this stuff that are doing significantly less revenue than a 25 million a year retail store.

And you can be a 20 year old running a store like that. Learning every part of that business from hiring people, how to select the right people, how to onboard them, how to train them, how to give them timely performance reviews, and feedback, and coaching, how to mentor them and help to help them blossom and flourish and see their full potential to the performance management side.

How to coach and do role plays and do performance improvement plans and how to fire somebody. And that's just a tiny glimpse of what a manager would deal with. Not including. analyzing profit and loss statements and finding holes in your cashflow statements and these, all these things that just prepare you to operate any business, basically, because at the end of the day, somehow it gets lost in translation, but all businesses are basically serving a customer in some way.

Someone has a need, a business has a solution. and there's an exchange and businesses that get too far away from the people are setting themselves up for failure and in the restaurant business and in the retail business, you physically cannot get away from people because a thousand of 'em walk through your doors every single day.

So you have to stay sharp. You can't run away and hide. You can't have a autoresponder or some loop email thing that keeps 'em from actually getting to a human with a robot. Like they're gonna come in, they're gonna bang on the counter and they're gonna demand that someone helps them right now. And man, I have stories 

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely.

This actually reminds me of a conversation that I was just having. Hannah and I are on TikTok and, a lot of people on there are saying, "I'm an introvert. I can't do sales." Or. "I'm an introvert. I can't learn how to deal with people." I find it interesting because personally, I am an introverted person and, but it's all learned.

You can learn how to do those things. You can learn how to do sales. You can learn how to deal with customers or, , conflict resolution. I rate people. It's just, you, and in those settings, it's kind of trial by fire. It's you're gonna get people that you can't run away from. Exactly. As you said, and I'll speak from the restaurant industry.

When I was out behind the bar, there was no back of the house. The place that I had there was no kitchen or anything like that, that I could run to this place. This, I just had to deal with this person just yelling at me. it's like . 

Yeah. As 

James: a manager of the best buy store, I was the last person, like if I said no, there was no one else that could come out from the back that could serve them.

And so I got the worst of the worst and I always made a point to my employees that I would be their defense person. They should not have a customer be yelling at them, call me. And like they should do and I would defend the employee if someone in those irate situations.

But as far as learning these skills, I was an introvert. Also, before I got into retail, I had my small group of friends, I was a computer programmer, I played video games. I made video games, I did not have this outgoing salesmanship nature, this charisma that I now have, that I've worked really hard to develop.

It may have been within me. Right. And some people say you had the potential. You just hadn't tapped that potential, but I had to learn it my first day at Best Buy. I remember it so clearly. I almost just like with the two colleges, I almost didn't go back because what you said trial by fire was absolutely true.

It was like, Hey, go help that customer. I'm like, go help that customer. I don't know anything. What do I even say to them? But the cool thing is when you help a hundred customers a day for a year, you're putting in so many reps before long, you're gonna be a machine at small talk and discovering what people are looking for and reading their emotions and being able to determine if they actually want help, or if they're browsing.

Like I could tell that across the entire store, and I knew which customers, you could go on like a full front toll. Like, hey, what are you looking for? I'll find it for you, and which ones needed more time and compassion. And I'd walk and pretend like I was straight in the shelf next to them. And I would grab my rag outta my pocket and dust the floor and they'd be like, oh, Hey customer, I didn't see you.

They're like how you doing today? I could read that they needed some more time. To before I could go and help them and right. So all of that can be learned and it was not intuitive. And it really comes down to shadowing people who are good at it too. And , that can take, make it take a lot less time, but you'll figure it out eventually if you try.

Ryan: Right. 

Exactly. And one of the questions that I did want to ask was on the podcast with Hannah, that on your show, the James Kandal show, everybody should subscribe. You said that you did a thousand interviews and with a lot of those interviews, you knew within 45 seconds, if we were gonna hire that person.

What were you looking for? How did you know? 

James: Well, like I said, it took repetitions, but it was not a conscious thought, It, wasn't like I'm walking outta my office, gonna go walk up to the front of the store and meet this person. And I'm like watching them as I'm walking up and I'm like, let me see if this is gonna be the person or not.

It was nothing to do that. It was a walk up, say, hello, look, 'em in the eye, shake their hands, say, come on with me into the office and let's have a chat. And I could feel within that short time from that front of the building and taking them into the office, if I was gonna hire 'em or not, and if they were gonna be good or not, and the interview, I always followed the same questions, to be fair to everyone to give 'em a complete shot.

I always asked the same questions every single time, but man, when I got that good feeling, it was a lot different for that set of questions than if I got a feeling, ah, this is just, this is a bad use of my time and I'd blow through the interview as fast as I could now. I can tell you. I can't tell you how I got those feelings, but I can tell you some of the similarities, some of the traits that those people maybe had.

And, one of which is like they showed up on time and you'd be shocked that is a gift. But if you have an interview at 2:00 PM and you're strolling in at 2:05 or 2:010, 2:010 that doesn't even make sense. I get things happen, but this is an interview you should get there on time or 10, 15 minutes early.

Like you can control that. Sometimes you can't and I get that, but that's your first impression that you're gonna have. And there was nothing more impressive than me than when someone came in 30 minutes early, checked in at the front door and they were like, Hey, you know, I have an interview with James today.

I'm pretty early. So I'm just gonna walk around the store and I love electronics. I'm just gonna be shopping, that person was gonna get hired. Like they love electronics. They came early and they're just gonna look around, you know, they're gonna get hired. You can dress in the best outfit you have.

I get , you need a job, and so you may not have the most amazing threads right now, but put some effort into it. Clothes are basically free at thrift stores. I work at a thrift store once a week. If you came in and said, Hey, I have an interview, I need some duds. We would give you clothes for free.

Almost any thrift store in America would. Not the thrift stores like in the trendy Lowes, but the real thrift stores, right? Like where we're actually like trying to help people. So get some clothes that look presentable and tuck your shirt in, or wear shoes that aren't scuffed up. Put a little effort in and a great I'm I'm speaking in Best Buy lingo, but okay.

You know at the time that they wore polos. And khakis. So wouldn't be crazy for you to wear khakis and a polo to that interview. Cuz you're already gonna look like an employee. You're gonna look like someone who fits in. So try to look like the job that you're gonna go and try to get when you're coming in for an interview.

 And those are just, those are like basic things you can do before you even show up for an interview that are gonna make you stand out versus the competition. And it's so sad how many people don't call. If they're gonna be late, if you're gonna be late, just call, it's fine. Like I understand if you have car trouble, I understand.

If you can't get a babysitter, I understand. If you couldn't leave the job that you're trying to leave to come to the interview, call me and say Hey, I'm gonna be 15 minutes later. Can we reschedule or something? Don't just say nothing. And I think you'll get so much further with that. And those are just the basics, but then we could even go into what you do as an individual once you're in the building about to walk into the room. 

Ryan: Yes. I mean, please, what I think, what-

James: Do you have any questions about that? Does that make sense far? 

Ryan: Definitely. I think what you said is brilliant because it's so simple. If you just do those things, you might not be starting off ahead, but you're at least not starting off behind you don't have to fight out of that hole of that first impression that you just made.

Right. We never get a second chance to make a first impression. And so once I walk into the, 

James: and bear in mind, I haven't seen these people's resumes. I typically only know their name and what time they're showing up. And I don't know anything about them besides that, at that point. 

Ryan: That's interesting. 


James: Can you explain that a little bit more then? Why haven't you, because why haven't you looked at their resume? Is it that HR. Gave it to you. And they said here's who you're hiring or here's who you're interviewing. So I had a back office manager that I would give them a day of the week and a time window and said, Hey, fill this with interviews.

It generally took me 45 minutes. I want 10 minutes between 'em and fill up this slot with time, and here's the position I'm hiring for, and they would go through the resumes and they would do a phone screen, which is just like three or four questions. And then they would put those people on my schedule.

So I knew at least they had the basics of what we needed and it was basically a blind interview for me. And I didn't want to have extra information and tarnish my opinion of that person. I just wanted to meet them and feel what type of an employee they would be. And it. I did see their resume once we sat down and I would take a minute and fill out the paperwork, look at their resume, do all that and make 'em feel really uncomfortable in the silence.

you can learn a lot about someone just by being silent for two minutes with them. And you'd be shocked just because someone had an impressive resume, whatever that might mean. It didn't mean that they were gonna be the person I hired. It was more about the energy that they had and how much it seemed like they wanted the job.

If it felt like they just were gonna take this job for a month and look for something else that didn't interest me. I wanted someone who wanted to learn. I wanted someone who wanted to grow. I wanted someone who I wanted, someone like me, who was gonna come in and be like, I wanna run this store someday.

And I wanna work for you because you can show me how to do that. I'd be like, great. Do you want a full-time job? I know you were looking for like an occasional seasonal job, but I could give you this full-time job that I have instead you know,

Ryan: So. How do you. As the person sitting across from you, how do you communicate that?

James: You just say it, I think it's so someone typically I was starting everybody. Oh. So, tell me about yourself and that's your chance to like, talk about who you really are not what's on your resume. I already have that in front of me, but what do you love to do? Oh, you're applying for a job at Best buy.

So you, hopefully you like computers and technology. So tell me that you love playing World of Warcraft and you're a Dungeon and Dragons fan, and you always are at Best Buy at midnight when we have midnight releases. And you've been wanting to work here since you shop on black Friday every year, and you used to spend the night outside the store and you just couldn't wait to get in.

And you're always here on Tuesdays when new movies come out and I would work here for free. If I like, I would work here for free, if you'd let, I just really wanna work here. And if you talk like that, it doesn't matter when we keep talking in Best Buy lingo,, but it doesn't matter what the job is.

If you said that and you were trying to become a programmer at Disney plus, and you were in the interview room with the person, you say, we use this product every single day. I'm so grateful for Disney plus you're helping me raise my children. You're giving me this great content to bring them up on.

I don't know how I would parent without your product, and I am really good at computer programming, but I wanna bring that to you guys because I love what you do. You're gonna get that job guaranteed. 

Ryan: Thank you for sharing that. One of the things that, and we're gonna jump around a lot here. The, one of the things about your past that was interesting, that you said is you were a computer programmer when you were growing up. And I've heard that in your interview with, Hannah as well, that you did with Hannah, what, what made you do that? How did you, and why did you? 

James: When I was, I don't know, eight or nine years old, my dad started bringing home computers and we were early adopters to technology.

So we had, , internet and DSL and dial up and all that long before it became popular, improved. And so I was coding in, basic in DOS and making these little games in dos and then windows came and these dates could be completely wrong. I don't even know if I was doing them in the order that things actually came out.

I can just tell you the order I did it. I started programming in basic, and then my uncle gave me a CD with visual basic from Microsoft. So then I started making programs in that, and it was always like to solve some kind of a need and prove that I could do it. So like my mom had a small business and then my dad worked for a company, as a salesman and an engineer.

And so I'd be like watching them and trying to figure out what they were doing and then try to make a program to help them make their job easier. And so I did that and then I really got into, and this might have been middle school or early high school. I really got into internet relay chat, and I was programming these bots for gamers on internet relay chat.

And, to help, I don't think I've said it most of this publicly before, but I was like a semi-professional Counter-Strike player. 

Ryan: Really? 

James: And I was creating these bots in a channel to help. This was long before Steam or any of that to help with matchmaking, 'cause video games were horrible at Matchmaking at that point.

So I made this channel and made this bot that would help moderate it to help teams find other teams to fight and to practice Counterstrike against, and then I also did the same thing with teams that needed like a fifth person to join them for a match, like to help them. And I created bots to do all of that.

And then I started working at the clothing store and never programmed again . 

Ryan: With Counter- Strike. Were you always, were you, did you ever do the like internet cafe stuff where you would go and have like LAN tournaments there? No, never? 

James: I think I was a little young. 

Ryan: Okay. 

James: I think I was born in 87 and so I was ahead of the curve as in I was doing it really young, but I was so young that I would be programming.

I think I told Hannah this when we were recording and it's bringing up so many memories as hilarious. I would remember being in class, ignoring the teacher cuz I was always, just never cared about class. This was in middle school/high school and writing computer code on paper with no computer in front of me.

And then I would go home and like type that in and test it, and my parents because I loved being on the computer so much. and that was the ultimate punishment. If I did something wrong, it was just to take away my computer. So there was months and months and months in my head as a kid, I swear it was years of being grounded from the computer.

I'm sure it was just months, but it really kind of put me behind on staying up with that. Especially if you're running bots and you're running on my computer and then like you're grounded and your computer's off. And now there's like thousands of people relying on this and it's just gone. Right.

So it wasn't great. 

Ryan: Do you still play video games to this day? 

James: I don't. 

Not anymore. The last game that I played was Final Fantasy 11 Online, which is sort of like world of Warcraft. I would say at least when I played it, it was a little more complicated, like, things that in World of Warcraft would take four in this game, it would take like 12, like it was like a major time suck, but there was also a programming component in that game.

And so I was programming automations from my characters to change gear to the best gear for whatever was happening. And it was all like coding language to do that. So that was like the last thing that I coded, except for like websites and things like that, that I still do today. 

Ryan: Right, right. Oh, that's awesome.

Yeah. Video games was a huge part of my past as well. , I don't really have the time to play anymore. I wish I did, but yeah, definitely. 

You said 

James: so for me, I have the time to play. I have a lot of free time. The issue is. I don't wanna allocate that free time to that. I wanna allocate it to being outside and walking, playing tennis, learning new things, reading books, cooking, resting, sleeping, all these other things I wanna do.

And so I know that if I can't do it a little bit. If I play a video game, I have to be the best in the world at it. And I have been the best in the world at many many of these games. And when we were on vacation two weeks ago, they had an Xbox in the Airbnb. Day one, I turn it on.

I'm like, oh, what's on this Xbox, oh, there's this UFC game. I'm like, huh, this sounds fun. I, I played for the next two days, the first two days of our vacation and went 24 and oh, in this UFC game and became like the, greatest of all time in the game and then was like, I need to stop. Like, what am I doing here.

Because I can't quit. So if you can't do it the best, I'm like, I might as well not do it at all. 


Ryan: I'm pretty similar. I don't have, I'm not very good at moderation. I just don't, I don't understand what those, what that word means. And so I just find that it's, uh, best to just abstain from things that, would just be a huge time suck


James: I've been having the urge actually though, to Get back onto that Final Fantasy server, just to see what's been going on and my computer can't do it. So I've been looking on Facebook marketplace for like cheap PCs and cuz it's like a PC game. I'm like, I should not do this. I know better. I should not do this, but I've been feeling the temptation lately.

 But really it's just for me, it's about priorities. And when I sat down a few years ago and I wrote 20 year goals down on paper and I was like, James, what do you want your life to look like in 20 years in these seven different categories. Video gaming wasn't in there at all. And so I have to take the time that I do have and choose to use it wisely on other things.

And it's the same reason. I don't have a TV in this house. We don't even have a TV not because I don't like Netflix, I've watched more shows than probably most people have. Like I'm an addict. But that's why I don't have a TV cuz I know I would have no self-control. And so if we wanna watch a Netflix show, which we do once in a while, I have to watch it on this computer monitor in uncomfortable chairs in the office.

And so not gonna do it for a very long stretches of time. 

 What was, 

Ryan: when you wrote down all those goals, what were those categories, if you don't mind, if you don't mind sharing. 

James: Yeah. So the categories there's seven of them and I tried to make one or two goals in each and. I got this originally from Zig Ziegler and I changed it to fit my needs.

And the buckets were your mind. So like your intellectual stimulus, your body. So that could mean your health and fitness and things like that and your spirit. So for some people, that's, their faith for other people, it's meditation and breath work and things like that. So you put goals down in all those three categories, and then you've got your family as a bucket, your friends/community as a bucket, then you have career.

And the final one is finances, and I just set goals in all seven buckets and we created this framework. I call it the family board meeting and we just meet once a quarter, Emily and I, my wife, and we go through the yearly goals and we set kind of goals for the next 90 days. In those, each of those seven buckets in order to reach this 20 year goal.

And we put them on our calendar very very small. Usually it's like, if you wanna donate a million dollars to charity in the next 20 years, you don't start out with donating a hundred. Like you put on your calendar that this Sunday, we're gonna call it giving Sunday. We're gonna sit down on with a cup of coffee and we're gonna give away a thousand dollars and we gotta pick what charities we're gonna give it to.

And you start that way and that you keep doing that quarter after quarter, month after month, year after year and before long, you're gonna crush your 20 year goals probably before 20 years. 

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. How long are these family board meetings that you have, like once a quarter for how long?

James: It depends on our needs. Sometimes they're five minutes and it's just like, we already know what we're going after, and just for example, we just did one and it was like a start stop continue because we've really dialed in on this. So we were like, okay, what do we wanna continue doing?

What have we been doing an amazing job over the last quarter that we wanna make sure doesn't fall off over this next quarter? Let's make sure we put that on the calendar. And for example, in the last quarter we've been doing a really good job in our friend's bucket. Our goal was to have a dinner party once a month.

And we've been having like two a month and we're like, this is really great. It's really filling us up. It's doing everything that we wanted. Let's make sure we continue to do that this next quarter, because for us, it's so easy to be like, great friends is on lock. I really wanna get in better shape this quarter.

And then you end the quarter and you're in better shape, but you hadn't done one friend thing. And so I start with what are we doing well and what we need to maintain that and not lose track on it. And so that's what we do first. And then we're like, okay, what have we like, sucked it up big time in the last quarter?

What have we not done at all? And we write that down, and then we we'd like, what do we need to like, just add in . What's some extra flare that we can add into this. And sometimes, like I said, it can take five minutes. Usually at the beginning of the year, when people are doing new year's resolutions we're doing an offsite much bigger planning session for the year where we look at our 20 year goals.

We look at our calendar and we start filling it in with things we wanna do that year before. Work and other things and other people's priorities fills our calendar up. We already had our vacations planned out for the entire year, the first week of January. So when a client's Hey, can you come and do this?

And that on this day we go, oh, no, sorry. We already blocked that off. Instead of at the end of it, instead of the reverses, like, oh, we need to get a vacation in here, but work and everything else has already filled out my whole calendar. There's no more slots left. Maybe we can take a long weekend here.

To me, that's unacceptable. There's the mentality of pay yourself first. And that's exactly what this is. Schedule your life first and then let everything else come in and fill it out. So those first ones of the year are generally longer. And I always recommend to do 'em offsite and at least a long weekend.

And the reason for that is, it's really hard to disconnect, first of all, like you, so we go into the mountains where there's no cell phone service and we just hang out for a day or two. And then we are like, all right, it's time for our board meeting. Like we've had sort of a dopamine detox.

Our focus is working. We're feeling really creative. We're feeling rested. We've had good food, good walks, good time together. And we're like, let's plan out this year. What's it gonna look like, like at the end of the year, what do we want to achieve and how do we want to be feeling? And it's very creative and dreaming and there's nothing, there's zero conversation here of how do we do it? We do not have any of that at this stage. It's what do we wanna look like in a year? What do we wanna be feeling? Who do we wanna be with? What do we wanna be doing? What do we want to achieved? And we write all that down and then it's like, all right, cool.

How do we work? And how do we work backwards and achieve it? 

Ryan: Yeah. I love the scheduling, like you said, paying yourself quote, unquote, paying yourself first, what Hannah and I do something very similar. In that we find that if we don't make ourselves a priority, nobody else is right. People are gonna take your time whenever they can get it.

And so you have to make yourself a priority. And one of the things that we hear whenever we tell this to other people is they say, well, that's easy for you because you set your own schedule or that's easy for you because you have a set schedule or, , insert this, reason, excuse, whatever you wanna call it.

I think it's important to know that you can do that. Even if you do work. Shift work, where you are say, you work at best buy or say you work in the restaurant and maybe your schedule is changing every week. Maybe you get your schedule on Thursday for next. Sunday and you can take, say, okay, well maybe we want to do a vacation this quarter, or maybe you don't have the money to take a vacation, but maybe it's a staycation or you take like a week of time, say we're gonna shoot within the first week of June to the second week of June, we're gonna take one day where we just go completely off grid and we just go walk around the town.

 It could be as simple as that. And that's one of the things that we hear, a lot of people is easy for you to say easy for you to say. 

James: I understand that. And I get that and I, my kind of pushback was I worked at Best buy. I was one of two managers in the store and I still got every one of my vacation hours used every single year.

And it was because I did the same thing. I was proactive about it. And sometimes you may be working with a boss or coworkers who don't use their time. And so if you're off gallivanting going on vacation, it's almost like, well, you're an underachiever, like you're underproductive. And so then you feel guilty to take your time.

That happened to me. I came from one best buy building to another, and I was used to getting all my time and using every hour. Like, why wouldn't you you get like, three weeks, that's like nothing. And so you have to use it all. And so I was like, okay, I'm not gonna be the underachiever, 'cause I'm a high achieving person.

So instead I'm gonna encourage these other people around me to take their time. And so I sat down with each of my peers and my boss and I'm like, let's map out your year. When are you gonna take your trip? You work so hard. Like you really need some time off. Like you deserve it. I'm totally like just making try to make sure I get my time.

But in a way that is also helping this person. And so my peers, we're also getting their time and taking their trips and I helped them plan. 'em I'm like, you know what? You're always talking about how I'm at the time I took a lot of cruises and you want me to help you plan one and I'd get on and I'd show 'em the prices to look at flights.

I'd be like, it's not that expensive. You can afford it like blah, blah, blah, blah. And I would help them map it out too. And. I would then fill in the blank spots there because they all had their time. I no longer felt guilty about getting all of my time and you can get super creative with vacation. So if you get three weeks off, that's, five, five, and five, but typically most people don't work weekends.

And let's say you don't work weekends. So you get your Saturday. Most people, if you do work weekends, which I did when I was in retail, you still get two days off each week, usually. So you just pile that together. So I would take Saturday and Sunday as my normal day off five days off for my vacation time.

And then Saturday, Sunday off again for my normal days off. And then Monday, Tuesday as my normal days off. And so a five day amount of time off ends up becoming what's that that's like 11 days. Yep. 11 days off with only spending five and granted, before my vacation. And after my vacation, the weeks were really long.

Like I had to earn that time off, but I only spent five days to get 11 days off. And I did that every time. So I only got three weeks off of vacation, but ended up being 33 days off each year and I spread it out and it was three vacations a year for 11 days each. And I took a cruise almost every single time and it was great and it just took being proactive and scheduling it and overcoming the, barriers and the objections, the same things that it takes to be successful in anything.

You just have to want it bad enough. 

Ryan: Yeah, definitely. And you apply that a lot of places, one of the things kind of switching gears, one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about was we shared this activity in common podcasting and. I went back and in preparation for this, I went back and I listened to some of your earlier stuff.

And I, and from what I understand, I think you just started it last year. Your podcast is great. I mean, you are a fantastic host and, a fantastic interviewer. How did you-

James: Thank you. Is that a question? 

Ryan: Yeah. I was like, how did you do that? As somebody that's as somebody that's, starting out on the interviewing side, our podcast normally right now is we have topics that we need to cover.

And so Hannah and I come up and we heavily outline, or we script, not script outline. We heavily outline an episode and we wanna get this information out to the people that listen to us. And as I'm coming into interviewing. It's a completely different skill set. And, so I went back and I listened to your you've improved so much, but you also started at the, you started pretty well.

And I guess, did you feel like that when you started off, when you started out and how did you improve so well or so much? 

James: It felt not that great when I started, and I think I just set really high standards and I don't even know, I didn't have a framework. I didn't even really know what I was gonna be talking about.

I think my gift in podcasting is that I read widely and I have a lot of interests, so I can go down pretty much any rabbit hole that someone brings up, and I am very careful when I'm doing research to not do too much research and. I usually have five or six bullets, just single word or two words written down on a piece of paper like this.

And I don't know why my video's so dark. Um, and that's all I'll have going into the conversation and I'm completely willing to shred that in the first 30 seconds, if something more interesting than I planned on comes up and I'll just stick on that for the entire segment. I remember recently I had Robin Altucher on the podcast and that was such, such a fun episode.

And it was like a 90 minute or two hour long episode. And my goal was to talk to her about friendships. And we talk about friendships a lot on my podcast. Cause I think we all need more friends and we need to, be better friends. And so we're talking about friendships, we're talking about friendships and it was good.

It was valuable. She had a lot of fantastic information, but she mentioned her kids a couple times. And then I started asking a few questions about her kids and then there was a switch in the room. Her face demeanor changed the way her voice sounded changed. Her nervousness went away. We just talked about parenting, all that evaporated.

And I'm like, this is my topic. And we just went into parenting and I had no script. I had no research. I had no plan, but I had a person in front of me that was passionate about a topic. And all I had to do was continue to nudge it where I wanted it to go. But really just let her do that.

And I had another podcast, very similar. Joe DeStefano, he has, a retreat called Rango, which is really cool, and we were talking my plan. I had like kettlebells, how to get strong. All this stuff written down. We ended up not talking about strength and fitness at all, and that's like his thing, but he mentioned his son.

I think his son's name's Levi. And I was oh, like, how are you raising your kid? I'm really curious. And we ended up doing the entire podcast about parenting and that was he hadn't talked about that a lot. I hadn't talked about that a lot. Wasn't what we, either of us were expecting, but we were both interested in at the time.

And so basically here's my whole plan. My goal is in the first three or four minutes of our conversation and it usually happens even before I hit record. I find a thread that we're both interested in together at the same time right now. And then we just go full steam into that. And if something else pops up, I have a ADD so I can't help myself, but follow that rabbit down that next trail.

And it makes it means that we jump around a lot and it sometimes means cuz I will take notes on my paper of like things that come up while they're talking that are like new branches I could dive down into. So if you mention to me parenting, but you're talking about school, I write that down.

I'm like, okay, maybe there's a chance we can slip into that later. And a lot of times, by the time I'm done with an interview, I've got an entire page of other trails. If you can go down and I'm like, if I bring this person back, I already have a whole list of things we could talk about. And so I guess another final thought on that and then you can ask me any questions about podcasting is you have these soft skills already.

Because you worked in the restaurant industry, you know how to talk to people. You probably were one of those people that people were sharing things with you. They should not be sharing with a complete stranger. They just trusted you. They were waiting for their friend to show up and they're telling you something about their day and their work or their date or their parents that like, why are they telling me they don't even know me.

You already have that gift. The idea is to lean into that and trust that you'll be able to handle the conversation wherever it leads and be nurturing in the safe environment to let that happen. And don't try to, at least this is what I do. Don't try to push it back into what you had planned and what you outlined before.

Be willing to completely throw that script out the window and go on the journey with them. And that's how real conversations are anyway. 

Ryan: Right. And it's funny that you say that, because, already I realize that from this, I have a lot of, I did a lot of prep for this. 

James: Oh wow. You should send me that.

I wanna know more about myself.

Ryan: I did a lot of prep for this, and I realized already with the time restraints, that time constraints that we have that was like, we're not gonna get to half of this. And, but it's fine. It's perfect. Because we get, go have a actual conversation. And one of the things I didn't wanna mention exactly what you said, and I noticed at your podcast is that you are very very good at just letting it go.

 Just completely. I've heard on a couple, I have a very general memory, so I can't think of exactly the episodes, but you would ask questions and the, your interviewee, the person that you're interviewing wouldn't really totally answer it, but that's alright. And it would just to go down a completely different, it would totally branch and you guys would just have a conversation.

And I was just like, this is awesome. And then you would just ask a follow up question about the branch that you're already on, as somebody that's trying to develop their skills in this, thank you for the free five minute consultation that we just had. 

James: yeah. I'll bill you later.

Ryan: Yeah. Right. 

James: Now, I think that you, I really wanna just restate what I said before that you already have this gift. I think it's having faith that it's gonna work. And I struggle with that. I'm almost 50 episodes into my show and they're all 90 minutes long. And most of the guests, I don't know, it's the first time I've talked to them.

So I'm always very intimidated. Am I gonna run out of things to say, and it has not happened yet. And so I have enough down where I'm like, okay, , if it's basically just like ask a question, get an answer, and there's nothing else I'll at least have maybe 15 minutes of content, and it I've never needed it.

Like I've never needed my prep work. It I've always just really leaned into the natural conversation that's happening. And so I just own that, and I'm like, Hey, when you listen to my show, it's like eavesdropping on two friends discussing the secrets of their success, because that's just really what it is.

It's like completely unguided and unscripted. And, you just have to have faith. I think you have the gift, you just have to practice it. And, I think from this interview, I'm having a great time. So I think you're doing a great job. 

Ryan: Thanks. Thanks. That's awesome. 

You know, you mentioned something about books, about reading and from what I understand, you read pretty prolifically.

How do you do that? Do you schedule time everyday to read? Do you put books all over your house? Or like 

James: I'm horrible at scheduling things? So I, whenever I do schedule something, I wanna do something else in that time. I just can never find a way to schedule what I wanna do and then be wanting to do that, that exact time.

So unfortunately I'm not as productive as I could be because of that. So I have to set myself up for success in other ways, and you nail it on the head. Like I sprawl books everywhere. They're always within reach and I'm always reading like four or five. And so if one of the ones that I pick up is not interesting to me right now.

I just go to the other one because I can't read a book that isn't interesting to me, my add is so bad. I shouldn't even be able to read. And so I have to be in the mood to read that book at that time. And I haven't .Read in like a week or two very much. And for some reason, not a single book I was picking up off my bookshelf was interesting to me. I don't know it was just a problem. I'm like I might be in the mood for fiction. And that's typically when I'm like, I just need to get into a good book, a fiction book, and a friend of mine a few months ago suggested I read the Hobbit and I haven't read it. I've never read any of the Lord of the rings.

And I'm like, all right, I'm gonna read this. And so I picked up the Hobbit on Friday evening and by Saturday afternoon it was already done. And now we're recording this I think is Tuesday. And I'm halfway through the next book in that series because it's the right book at the right time. For what I need right now.

And I always have it within reach. So if I go to the pool, I'm gonna take it with me. If I'm gonna go in the car, it's gonna be with me. When I wake up, it's gonna be on my nightstand. When I go into the living room, I'm gonna take it with me into the living room. And so if I do feel like creating for five minutes, 10 minutes, I do.

And I sort of apply the, it's kind of James clear atomic habits and BJ fog, tiny habits, very similar. And it's the, well, I'll just read our page. And one page ends up being 45 minutes sometimes. And, you just read however many pages that is. And so I wouldn't say I read a ton in any one spurt at a time, but I read frequently enough throughout the day.

And I'm reading what I'm interested in. So the time just kind of flies. 

Ryan: Would you consider yourself like a fast reader or no? 

James: My wife reads significantly faster than me. If we're both reading, she flies through a book in the same amount of time. I go back and reread things so many times and to let it sink in.

And I take a lot of notes. I always have a retractable pencil like this with me. And I'm circling things, underlining things, folding over pages, writing questions in the margins as I'm going. And so I'm kind of a slow reader. I just am a passionate reader. And I know when a book isn't speaking to me and I'm not afraid to lay it back down or put it back on my shelf.

Sometimes for years, there's some books on my bookshelf back here. I started. Read 10 pages and I'm like, Nope, not the season for me right now, maybe in another season. And I move on and a lot of times what I use as clues for what I want, I like what I should be reading is a real need that I have to Excel in one of those seven buckets. I mentioned. So if I'm realizing that. I'm struggling in fitness and I'm feeling guilty about it, cause I'm an achiever and I'm competitive. Well, that might be a great time for me to read a fitness book because it's exactly something I'm wanting right then. And so I'm gonna wanna devour it to improve.

Versus I don't like to read things in areas that I'm already really good at. Like I don't read very many books on sales or business anymore because they all sound the same now. Like it's not what I'm trying to improve right now. It's not really giving me anything new or it's not really peaking my curiosity in any way.

And as a kid, no one have ever thought I would be a reader. I didn't read a single book through middle school or high school. I think Harry Potter was like the, one of the first ones or Hardy boys or something like that, but I didn't read any of the school assignments. I didn't read any of my homework. I never did any homework in school.

Like it, I had to really find things I was interested in and that's what I'll read. 

Ryan: That's amazing. That's crazy to not to go from reading zero for basically eight years to reading 50 a year. That's crazy. Is it just a hunger for knowledge? Is it just that intellectual curiosity that just kinda spurs you to do it?

Or, you try 

James: It's that for sure. It's that. And I keep buying books. Like I just, if I hear of one, that sounds interesting I just order it immediately, and when I wasn't making very much money. When I quit my job at Best Buy, that was just putting books on hold as a library. I didn't have money to go.

And still today I buy used books, if the book is on Amazon, I have this whole algorithm. I go on Amazon. If it's available, used. And it's like 20% less than it is new. I just buy it used if they're less than that, I just buy it new. So it gets here a little bit quicker. But before that I was just borrowing 'em from the and, and then there's no skin in the game.

If you don't like the book, just drop it back in the bin. I think so many people quit reading because they were forced to, or encouraged to read a book that they didn't like. And they were afraid to just give the book back and say, Hey, this book isn't for me, or to just get rid of the book, like just cuz you bought a book and you read five pages doesn't mean you need to spend the next 10 years of your life going through it.

Throw it away, give it away, take it to that thrift store we mentioned earlier, like just do something with it and get something you'll like, and I guarantee you'll read more books. And, I think that's really the secret is don't be afraid to just give up on a book and maybe not forever, maybe just for this season that you're in right now.

Ryan: Yeah. I think that's really important. And that's something that I can learn from as well, because for me, I don't read as many books. I probably read 10 books a year on average, maybe twenties, a good year twenties, a good year. And when you're reading that few of books, it's kind of a high leverage. It's kind of a high leverage thing.

Like, okay, well, if I only read 10 books a year, now I have this one book here. I started it. I'm kind of halfway through it. I'm not really enjoying it, but you know, sunk costs like I'm already halfway in. Like I might as well just finish it. And it's something that I struggle with, cuz I I'll get in the middle of a book and I'm just like, this thing is just, it's just not right for me at the time.

It may I don't wanna say it's trash, but it's just not right for me at the time. 

James: No, you can say it's trash though. That's another myth, just because someone put it for sale on Amazon and just because it has 1,005 star reviews, it could be trash to you to me. Yes. Right. And, and it could be trash to everyone and it could just be a popular book.

There's a lot of books out there that are not good. They're poorly written. They shouldn't have been written and someone just wanted a business card. And when you discover those books, and if you don't wanna read it, don't read it. That's because you started, it doesn't mean you have to read it.

And just because your best friend said, Hey, I really think you'd like this book, if they're wrong, to do it in a polite way, but just don't read it. There's so many books out there and a good friend of mine who reads even more than me. I think he books reads like a book a day. He had this idea and he's like, I may only have like two or 3000 more books left in me to read in my entire life.

So if, just because someone mails me, the book doesn't mean that's gonna be the one that makes it on my pile and I may actually go back and re-read a lot of books for those two or 3000 books because I already found ones that are great. And so, I think there's like this idea in culture, like just because a book's popular, everyone needs to read it.

And I like to find the books that nobody's reading that maybe people have forgotten about maybe from prior generations that may have way more wisdom, than the pop culture book today. Because you said you read, you said it was strange that I didn't read for eight and now I'm reading every day, but actually more on that you're right.

Because the statistics show that after high school slash college, most people don't read any books ever again. And I think it's just because they didn't follow their own passions. And we have too many recommendations from these gurus about books that helped them, but they may not help you. So if you like chess, buy a book on chess, if you like airplanes, buy a book on airplanes and enjoy yourself.

Ryan: Yeah, definitely.


With chess, I understand you're playing now again, I guess before you've taken a decades long hiatus from chess, and now you're starting to get back into it. What's the goal. Are you trying to be competitive or are you just trying to learn more and just trying to improve?

James: I, my friend Corey taught me to play chess. I think it, I was probably 10 years old and he taught me though how the pieces moved and that was it. I had never played again since then. And then a few years ago, I started playing on lichess and got addicted. Like it was like my new video game and started playing dozens of games every single day.

I've since played thousands of games. And I hired a coach, multiple coaches and started getting books and taking classes, going to chess tournaments and doing all of that and realized , it's a difficult game like this isn't it was one of the first things that I had embarked upon that I couldn't become relatively good.

In like a mediocre amount of time. Like usually if you can become decent at a lot of things in a couple months of, full time dedication, chess is not that way. I was realizing no matter how much time I spent learning to play it, it was still not gonna be enough for me to get to an expert or a master level.

And so right now I'm just playing for fun. I don't have a coach. I haven't been going to tournaments I'm in sort of a hiatus and it's only because I'm learning something else that takes significantly more time. Like it's the most, it's even more complicated than chess if I would be able to say that.

And so I do have plans to get back into chess and to continue to get better, but, they're kind of on hold for now, but it will happen again. Cause I love playing. It's such a beautiful game. 

Ryan: What has been taking your time? What have you been learning? 

James: I am getting a pilot's license. 

Ryan: Right on.

James: And so twice a week, it's actually taking two full days, every week, which is a huge time commitment. And I'm, I am obviously I'm flying. It's not obvious, but it I'm learning to fly vintage aircraft from the 1940s. So, they're a lot different than newer planes. There's a lot more aviation to it. And, mechanical things that I have to learn and weather and navigation, and I'm learning to fly planes from ground reference maneuvers, where I have a paper chart and I go from airport A to airport B 60 nautical miles away without using a GPS with just using a map and then safely land there.

And then come back and it's hard. There's all these micro skills within flying and each one of 'em is its own battle that you have to kind of figure out how to do so that's what I've been doing since August. It's a lot, it's exhausting. Like I flew yesterday for a couple hours and I come home and I'm exhausted.

Like I've never done anything that was this physically and mentally demanding before. 

Ryan: How far along are you trying to take, flight school and being a pilot? Are you just trying to get your private or are you working up to commercial? 

James: I'm just working on private. Now I have no goals of generating any income from it.

It's just a hobby and a goal of just localized travel, like being able to hop in a plane and get to Nashville in four hours instead of eight hours, sounds really neat. And being able to see the country from 1,800 feet, just it's beautiful there and being able to travel our country on the east coast here by doing that would be really really neat.

I probably will get my commercial also at some point because, I have a business and I can think of many ways that a commercial pilot license could be useful for my business endeavors, but I have no interest of, flying for high or for pay. I do have interest in doing like emergency flying. If someone has a pet that needs to get somewhere or a person that needs to get somewhere or some supplies that need to get somewhere for certain reasons, I would love to volunteer and do that sort of stuff.

 But definitely have no interest in being like a Delta pilot or something.

Ryan: Mm-hmm 

is it all fit? Is it fixed wing that you're gonna stick with fixed wing or are you gonna do helicopters too? 

James: No, I don't think I could afford helicopters. I think I'd have to be like 20 years old enjoying the military if I ever wanted to be a helicopter pilot.

Ryan: Yeah. It's well, especially if you're trying to be , competitive. I used to be accountant at a flight school in a different life. And so, we did fixed wing and we did rotary as well. So it was, I know exactly how much it costs, at least in the area that I was at. And you're absolutely right.

 It is crazy expensive. 

James: It has to be hundreds of thousands. 

Ryan: It's crazy. It's crazy expensive. Especially if you're trying to get up to CFI, it's to go the civilian route is really really tough to be competitive in the, exactly what you said of, the commercial market or trying to get paid for it.

The only real way without spending an arm and a leg is to join the military and. Right. Your economics go the other way. Instead of you spending money to get your flight hours, you're getting paid to community.

James: Basically all the helicopter pilots I've met were ex-military so far and it makes sense.

And, it's just, you know, the helicopters are millions of dollars. The planes I fly are 30 to $40,000, like, so renting one is a couple hundred or a few hundred dollars an hour versus thousands of dollars an hour. And so it, it, and you have to train a lot, like if you actually wanna do this and you wanna do it properly, like so many people.

 This is a whole theological debate. It's not really necessary, but I'll just go quick on it. So many people are just going through flight school to get in like a Delta cockpit. And so they wanna do it as fast as possible. And then they'll get their flight experience in the Delta cockpit.

 I wanna graduate and be able to take my wife and our future children on small trips. In a small airplane, I wanna do it and be 100% confident that I can safely get them there and get us back every single time. And so I'm putting in hundreds and hundreds of repetitions in many different parts and including emergency procedures and flying in wind , and flying without vision and so many other things.

So I can feel confident to take my loved ones up in the air, and it's a big time commitment, but it's fun. It's, it's challenging. 

Ryan: Yeah. Eight hours a day for, two days a week. That's a lot of time.

That is a lot of time 

James: and it's not all flying. It's a lot of driving to the airport.

 It's like an hour and a half away. It's basically just, it is eight hours of time. Start to finish twice a week and I come home exhausted. So I can't just come home. Do normal work. Like it basically is taking away two full productive days for me. So it's a lot.

And there's been many times throughout this I'm like, is this worth it? I'm giving up so much to do this. Is it worth it? And, I'll let you know. 

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. 

You must be close to your check ride though, right? You started in August last year, twice a week. 

James: Yeah. So I'm very close. I've been doing a lot of travel, but most likely in the next 60 days I'll be finish.

Oh, awesome. Good luck. Thank you. I did pass my written test, so I have the knowledge, the applicable knowledge, according to the FAA. So now I just have my check ride, and that's what we've been doing. We've been doing simulated check rides where I'm doing the maneuvers over and over and, over and over again 

Ryan: Right 

Yeah. That's always something that I wanted to do. It's still on the, it's still on the bucket list, to fly for me I wanna fly rotary though. I I'd rather fly helicopters and for what you just said, it's really expensive. I have a friend right now. That's going through a flight school, the civilian way, and yes, it is the amount of money that he's burning through is, it's pretty amazing.

It's astonishing. , I'm just like, I was like, the good thing for him is he actually has a goal of that. He wants to do it in a commercial capacity and get paid for it, but he's a firefighter and he's also a cop already. He's both. And so he kind of has an in if he gets his commercial.

So for him, it kind of makes sense economically for me, it's-

James: Yeah, it's an investment for him, 

Ryan: Right. 

James: And if you look at the cost of going through flight school to keep it more on the par with this podcast, if you look at the cost of what it would take to go and do that, and then you look at the jobs that are opened up to you from doing that, like the math works very quickly, like you're gonna make in your first year and you know the numbers better than me, but I think you'll make in your first year, as a pilot, a full-time commercial pilot, or maybe first two years, for sure.

What you spent to go and get that, is that true?

Ryan: Yeah, definitely. 

I mean, it depends on where you've gone to get your license where I was, I was in California and it was much more expensive on average just because of where we were. And so, but generally speaking you're absolutely right.

Yeah, definitely. It's something it's one of those things that if you take the time, just like anything else, if you, the younger you do it, the more you're gonna get on the upside of it there. So it's difficult to do the math when you start to get a little bit older, not. I mean, unfortunately that's just a kind of a fact, 


James: Definitely, and there's actually such a need for pilots right now that there's gotta be creative ways to get this paid for right now, because so many people have retired in the last two years in this field and there is not enough people to fill these planes and it's gonna become a massive problem.

So if flying's interesting to you, there's gotta be creative ways to get it funded and to get into a cockpit. And, for me, the way I figured out if I wanted to do it was just, paid for one small 45 minute tour around the town. And that was in 2017. And I was like, all right, this is pretty awesome.

And so I started saving and then in 2021 in the summer, I took my wife up and I'm like, okay, I'm ready to do this. If she doesn't love it or feel safe with it too, then I'm done with it. Like, it doesn't make any sense for me to take the time and have this, if she can't join me. And so she went up and she's like, okay, this feels great.

It feels safe, it was fun, like it was beautiful up there. I'm like, all right, I'm all in. And then I went all in. 

Ryan: That's awesome. 

To kind of switch gears here. One of the things I did want to talk to you about was your, your agency Craven Street Marketing Group. And so if you could just have a couple of questions about it, but if you could just explain what it is that you do now with your career.

James: Yeah. So I have, an agency called Craven Street Marketing Group, and we basically help natural products brands sell more of their amazing products on Amazon. And we do that in many many ways, but basically we take complete control of your account and do everything we can to help you sell more. And then you don't have to worry about anymore because most of the brands that we work with are a little bit smaller and they have so many things that they can be doing and not messing with Amazon.

Ryan: So what are the keys to making millions in Amazon? What are the keys to marketing natural food products or marketing in general? 

James: It's really not as complicated as you would think. And there's no shortcuts though. You got to have a product that's unique that you actually love. I think that seems to be the thread running through everything we're talking about.

 You can't just look on Ali. I mean, you can, and people do this all the time, but if you wanna be successful for a long time, you can't do it. I don't think you, you have to have a product that solves a real problem that you have, and then you can't find it anywhere and it's driving you absolutely mad and nobody's making it.

So you say. I guess if no one's making it, I'll do it. Cuz I need this and I know if I need it, there's gonna be other people out there, and so then they do it and they figure it out. And they're usually just like a single person company and they're like scratching and clawing trying to figure this out and teach themselves that.

And then they've got this really cool product that nobody else has that other people are looking for. And then that's where we come in and help to put systems and processes in place, organization and Amazon best practices onto your Amazon store. We manage that so you don't run out of inventory. We write your copy.

So it sounds great on Amazon, we manage your advertising. We manage the customer experience. We do all of that, so you can just continue to come up with more formulations and be out selling your product and not worrying about Amazon because it's complicated. And when you've got in America, there's over 150 million prime members. So they're there. If your product isn't on Amazon, you're missing out. And so you have to be there, but it takes all this energy to be there. And so that's our problem that we solve. 

Ryan: Yeah. Definitely. 

For a lot of people listen to this, they don't know much about marketing. They don't know much about, how to sell anything.

They never sold anything before. I know that you have your background from retail, so you can pull on a lot of that knowledge, but for people just starting, they're maybe they wanna sell a little gadget or, widget that they've made. What's a good, basic starting point for learning how to market, how you know how to make somebody buy something from you.

James: I think you have to start with actually selling it. I mean, this is my bias in, you have to start by selling it in the real world, to real people. There's a ton of clever ways to do that. When we first moved to the town we're in now, and we didn't have jobs, we actually started a little booth at the farmer's market and we were selling healthy baked goods, kombucha, watermelon juice, vegetable juice, all this random stuff, because I'd been in retail so long.

I was like, well, let's just make a product and go sell it directly to people. And you actually hear what they like, what they don't like, you hear what words they use to describe the needs that you have that they have. And like I said, when I was describing my company and it's like, you don't have time to manage your Amazon account.

.You're too busy. Every client that has hired us has basically said, oh, thank you so much. I didn't have time to do this. Right. So you just use that language and you learn that by interacting with real people, having them sample your product, or use your product in front of you and show you what's good about it, or what's not good about it.

And then you can take all of that and start trying to mimic and do that online because that's where the scale is. Right, you start with something you can sell in person, and then you find a way to sell it online. So many people skip the in person step and that's okay. You can, you can completely skip that and you can just send your products to people, have them record videos about what they liked about it and what they didn't like about it.

Have them do surveys or get on calls like this and interview them, but I'm a in person kind of person, because most products they're not gonna be using it, online. They're using it in the three dimensions. So why not interact with them in the three dimensions and then take that online and then continue to scale it once you've found out you can do it in the real world. The problem is, so if someone's listening to this and they have an idea, I'm like the anti think big guy, like I think what can I for sure do that if it fails, I'm not gonna be completely homeless.


That's where I start. So I won't ever be Elon Musk and that's okay.

I'm not gonna take a big enough gamble or risk when I watch Shark tank, and I hear these people are like, we took a $200,000. HeLOCK on our house, and if this doesn't work, we are not gonna have a house anymore. I'm like, that's stupid. I'm sorry, good for you that you did that. I hope you're successful, but there's always another way.

And it's just take it a little bit slower. Do it in smaller batches. Make it yourself at first, start really small, prove that it works and then go and do it. And I think, , there's people that have hired us on Amazon and they've got like 5,000 units cuz so many of these manufacturers make you get like two, three or 5,000 units before they'll do your run.

And they're like, we need your help. These things are gonna expire in six months. Like, can you help us sell through 'em? And I'm like, no, there's no way, like it takes longer than that to build. And so like why didn't you order 500? Find someone who will do it in a small scale, and the great thing about starting really small and when it's just, you look at Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanks, she was cutting the legs off of panty hose herself and then going door to door.

 I could be butchering the story and selling it right. She did it herself. She started small. She proved that it could, and then she scaled and, you learn so much in that phase of entrepreneurialship and there's no college, there's no course there's nothing out there that can replace that hustle and that grind and that just figuring it out phase.

And it's so valuable. 

Ryan: Yeah. , where were you like seven years ago when I started to be an entrepreneur, the one of the first, 

James: I was at Best Buy.

Ryan: If I had listened to this piece of advice, we wouldn't have lost as much money as we did, but we ended up doing. It was Hannah and I, our first round of entrepreneurship that we did. We did these silly hats for St. Patrick's day. I don't wanna talk too much about it, but anyway, we ended up doing, we bought way too many and it was the St Patrick's day hat. So it's it's funny now I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about it, to be honest, but it's a one holiday. It's not even that big of a holiday. And we bought so many, we bought about like 1500, 1700 units and it was, I don't know what we just thought.

James: Do you still have 'em I bet you still have some, 

Ryan: We still have some, we still have some as a reminder to ourselves of just to see where we've been and see how far we've come, but also don't be dumb. Do what you said and what was crazy about that was that our profit margins were actually pretty okay.

Because we ended up getting when we bought so many of 'em, so our unit, our per unit price was pretty low . And we were like six X on is what we ended up pricing it at. So we ended up losing money, but not as much as we thought, but had we just scaled it back a little bit and, and bought 500 units or even, 750 units.

We probably would've made some money off of that, but it was just I hear what you're saying on the, take it slow and don't get caught in the per unit pricing of things, 'cause I mean, it happens. It happened to us. 

James: There was a post about how to become a billionaire and the author. Why can I think of his name right now?

Doesn't really matter. He's seen a lot of them in his time in Silicon valley. And his whole premise was basically that you have this group of friends and yourself that are using some technology or desiring some product that doesn't exist or you couldn't imagine your life without it. Then you just have to know in five or 10 years, there's gonna be a lot more people like you than there is right now.

And for me, that's obvious now, like in 2016, when I left Best Buy and I was like, I wanna have control and flexibility in my life. I wanna be able to work from anywhere. All of that, that was already old news. Like Tim Ferris wrote the book in like 2008 or 2009 saying the same. In 2016, when I did it, it was still crazy.

And like remote work was like, not a thing, but now look at 2020 and 2021. Now everybody wants to be remote basically. No one can imagine going back to an office. So Tim said it in 2007, 2008, and maybe it was 2009. I did it in 2016 and it was early. And now in 2021, it's super popular. Like sometimes these things take 10, 15 years, but if you want it and you need it and you believe in it right now, and you have some friends that do too, just give it time.

And I think too many entrepreneurs, there's so many stories of someone who overnight becomes a billionaire. And most of the time, those stories are not true. And most of the time, those are rare cases usually takes 10 or 15 years and most people. We'll quit before 10 or 15 years. The only times I've thought about quitting my podcast already, it's not even. Been a year. Like it, it's gonna take me 10 years before I really build a brand and a personal brand. And will I quit before then? There's a chance, but I know I won't be successful if I quit. It's the same in product businesses, and it's really hard. I mean, how do you not quit?

That's the question that, 

Ryan: That is the question, and at the beginning of the conversation, I think one of the things is for everybody is just figuring out your why. I mean, that really what you did is figure out your goals, figure out your north star, and, 

James: and I should take you back to when I quit Best Buy.

And I was wanting a flexible lifestyle and I just didn't know what I wanted exactly. I just knew I wanted something different. I read so many books on finding your identity, your purpose, your dream life, like designing your life, all this stuff. And it actually made it, it worse. Like I was more down after that.

All these people found their purpose and I don't know what mine is. It hasn't shown up, like why don't I have this revelation of what I should be doing? And I think it doesn't really work that way. , it comes in small glimpses and it comes when you're actually out there making footsteps.

Like you actually have to be in motion to discover where you need to go. It's a lot harder if you're standing still. So if you're listening to this and you're like, man, I really want more flexibility and more freedom. I wanna find out what I should be doing. Like what's my why my encouragement to you is to.

Start experimenting on a small scale, not don't go and buy a few thousand green hats. Start really small, read a book on, you know you think you wanna make guitars or you wanna be a woodworker or you wanna be a beekeeper. That's something I wanna do next year. So what did I do? I went on Amazon and spent $9 and bought a beekeeping book.

And I started looking at some beekeepers on Instagram and I called an apiary locally and said, Hey, is it too late to get started this year? And they're like, yeah, you gotta start next year. I'm like, okay. And I just started really small with this experiment, very low risk, super high reward and that's what you do.

And you'll find some things resonate with you. And some things are really exciting and keep going into those. Just like we talked about with how I like to read. And just like we talked about with how I like to interview guests. Follow what excites you. What excites you. Not what excites pop culture now.

What excites your neighbor? Not what excites your parents or your friends find out what you really like. And when you were a kid from nine to 12 years old, this was second nature. No one had to tell you what your favorite color was. You knew your favorite color. No one had to tell you what your favorite. Book was or your favorite toy or what your favorite show was or what your favorite food was.

You knew all of that. It was so easy. Get back in touch with that part of you that knows when you like something. And when you don't like something and start following the things you like and start walking away from the things you don't like, and you'll start getting very close to your why. , 

Ryan: Amazing.

And we're coming up on time here, James and I don't wanna take any too much more of your time. Last question is, where do I send people to learn more about you learn more about Craven street marketing group. The James Kandal show. 

James: You can look up my Instagram or my Twitter.

It's just James Quandahl and my last name is Q U A N D A H L. So it's at James Quandahl or you can just go to my website, Quandahl.com, and I publish an episode most weeks of my podcast. I write an article here and there. I've got hundreds of articles on leadership and things I learned when I worked in retail, on my website and, dig in there and send me an email or a direct message on Twitter and Instagram.

If I can help you in some way, I'd be honored to just support you. If some of this is resonating with you and you're like, I need more knowledge on how to do that and just get in touch. I'd be happy to help. 

Ryan: All right. Excellent. 

Thank you so much, James.

James: It's my pleasure. 

Ryan: Thank you so much for listening.

As I said before, if you guys wanted to get any of the links to everything that we talked about, they're gonna be in our show notes Degreefree.co/jamesquandahl Q U A N D A H L. And a couple things before you go, if you haven't already, please sign up for our newsletter degreefree.co/newsletter. Our newsletter comes out once a week with different degree free jobs, tips, resources that you can use to get hired all without a college degree.

And the second thing before you go, if you did wanna support the podcast, please leave us an honest review. Wherever it is that you get your podcast, you can always reach out to us at [email protected] Just send us an email. Tell us what's on your mind until next time guys Aloha.

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