How to Create a Life on Your Terms with Jeff Lerner
By Mary Maxey
October 24, 2019
In today’s episode, our guest is Jeff Lerner. He is a former jazz musician turned 9-figure entrepreneur passionate about helping people unlock their potential and create their dream lives by believing and developing themselves.
[3:20] Why should I listen to you?
Because I don’t want to sell you anything other than what is possible for your life.
[4:10] What do you frame for people regarding what is possible for their lives and their inability to see past the first branch?
Initially, it’s about getting calibrated on the voice you are listening to. We’re born without a voice, surrounded by people that have agents. We can wail and make sounds, but we can’t articulate words. We can’t form our ideas immediately when we are born, but we are immersed in other people’s ideas. We develop the ability to formulate our ideas and our own vision for our lives but by then, we’re probably on other people’s programs. There is this concept that if you just hold on till you are 65 years old and you do all the things you’re supposed to do, eventually, we will give you a few years where you get to live your own program.
[6:04] How does a person realize they’re in this kind of matrix-ish program situation?
I don’t think it takes that long. I think that everybody could probably discover a completely different version of themselves within probably 24 hours. Walking alone, you change your life. You just gotta create some stillness. If you look at the world we are living in right now, if there is a decrease in anything, I think it is stillness. Just create some intention in getting to know yourself. Also, reduce the external noise so that your voice can actually be heard.
[8:58] What was your journey?
Before I say anything else, I’d like to encourage anyone tempted to jump to conclusions to at least suspend judgment. I grew up around a fair amount of money, and I’m an only child. My parents worked all day and I just had the house all to myself, reflecting on the prosperity and security I was surrounded by while also developing a relationship with myself. There is a lot more to it than that but what can I say that,out doing too much revisionist or retroactive? I will just for whatever reason by the time I was a teenager, I had decoupled the idea of money and happiness. Those two were not the same for me and I think that alone gave me a different truck in life.
[12:45] Where did the grit come from?
Everybody has got grit but they don’t succeed. So I grew up with that orientation. For me, the harsh answer is that grit comes from pain. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Whatever we endure over time can transmute into grit. One of the books I come back to a lot is a book by C.S Lewis called the “Problem of pain” and it talks about why a just God would allow so much pain and suffering in the world. I don’t presume to have that answer on a universal scale but I can say for myself, that I have suffered a lot. I suffered from bullying, weight problems, psychological abuse, and scorn for the choices that I made. I won’t say the world turned against me but I think they quietly rooted for my failure and I could feel that. The Latin word for suffering is patio which is the root of the word passion and I think that for some people, suffering can transition into a passion and drive and it can also break a person. I am fortunate that it went the former way.
[16:18] What was one of the first things that you faced and overcame back then that was the catalyst for the rest of them?
Probably the biggest one happened right around 18. I look back and it was a sort of out-of-body time form. I dropped out of high school around 16 and I was really my former declaration to myself and the world that I am not going to travel the ordinary path. I’m going to go the road less traveled. My very rational idea was to find something to do. Essentially, academic credentials play no part in one’s success and as a dropout, it depends on my performance. I came up with the idea of playing the piano. My parents not only agreed but also bought me the piano to get started. From age 18 to 20, I taught myself everything about music and I got 10 years of college paid for on a music scholarship as a high school dropout who was self-taught the piano for three years. I think from that, I proved to myself that if I bow down and don’t let down, I can do some kinds of stuff and I have to ride on that ever since then.
[20:34] How do we get to the role of what you do now, What were some of the lily pad frog jumps that got you here?
Being a musician, you are at the bottom of the hill that rolls down. Then You learn to fight if you’re ever going to get paid. Being in a band is like being an entrepreneur, where you’re trying to create harmonious energy among a group of people, and there is a much larger group of people called the audience, that you’re inviting into the energy that you as a tight-knit group are creating. That is a small business opening its doors to customers, and you learn about holding tension, managing energy, and keeping people aligned. If you can keep a group of musicians aligned in a way that draws thousands of people in, it’s not that different than building a team in a business. There is another part of it where, as a jazz musician, I essentially had certain constraints that were like tempo, the tune we were playing, the key we were in, and a certain amount of collective problem-solving skill. So the catalyst then was creating a template for entrepreneurship and artistry and showing how they are kind of two sides of the same coin. They just have a different value of opposition, and that was when the seed was planted.
[27:39] What were the first couple of businesses?
I have them written in a book, I list them all and I identified 11 that was significant enough for me to write about. There were 11 failures. I just failed, but it’s like when your currency isn’t money, your currency is freedom. Is it a failure when you try your own thing and it doesn’t work out? If I had been evaluating it through the traditional worldly lens, I probably would have quit. I tried being an estate investor; I tried promoting raves; I opened a sandwich shop. I had a bunch of different businesses; I was entrepreneurial, and I just didn’t stop.
[30:16] What was the turning point that got you to the point where you got to a position financially where you are doing great and also helping other people?
The thing is, every time I start a business, I’m Convinced that it’s the one. Let’s say business number 11 which I was convinced was this franchise restaurant. I took on about $600,000 in debt to get those off the ground. The point is, I was screwed. My wife got fed up with me. I got evicted from my apartment, and I ended up living at my wife’s parent’s house. I will tell you that the great vexation of my life is that I can’t figure out how to get people to shift without them having to suffer so much. I bottomed out, and I was up in the middle of the night looking at my computer and how to make money on the internet. I started teaching myself digital marketing, and I realized that I had an internal confidence that was organized around sitting at a keyboard. I learned digital marketing, and in 18 months, I paid off half a million dollars in debt.
[35:23] Share with people what it is in your words that you do now.
In 2009, I started figuring out this digital marketing thing online. Attending events, meeting the right mentors, meeting people who had traveled the less privileged path—all of these things helped me see ordinary people who had done what I was trying to do. had what I had been seeking, which was freedom. In 2012, I started a digital agency and started selling my digital skills to small and medium-sized enterprises all around the country. In six years, that agency was able to reach over 11,000 small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. In the last two years, I also started a side business that was a direct sales business that was driven online through software and a network of affiliates, and I did well. In 2018, I sold the agency, and at that point, I had had three consecutive 8-figure businesses that were all powered by the internet to some degree. After that, I looked around at all the people around me who, whether or not they have more money than I do, do not have nearly the quality of life that I do. They do not own their time, and I started putting out videos on how to be of help.
[47:00] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
When God gave me to the world, I think what he said was that I would be a case study of someone who transmutes hardship into service. Bear in mind that I’m not saying that as an absolute description of myself because that would be arrogant. I am stating that as a standard that I strive for every day.
[10:25-10:30] Most people think that there’s a certain financial situation that will result in happiness.
[29:33-29:37] You can fail 70% of the time and still make the Hall of Fame.
How to connect with Jeff Lerner