Episode 144: The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur – John Jantsch

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 144: The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur - John Jantsch
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Can daily meditations help you develop your brand or find your purpose? To talk about that, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing joins the podcast today. Listen in to hear what John has to say about his new book, why he was interested in putting out a book on daily meditations, and what John learned while he worked on putting the book together. 

Episode Highlights:

  • How long John has been running Duct Tape Marketing
  • John’s new book
  • What got John interested in putting out a book on daily meditations
  • The self-reliant part of John’s meditation book
  • Similarities between this and previous cycles in history
  • How John’s book could help entrepreneurs develop their brand or purpose
  • What John learned while putting his book together
  • John’s thoughts on the human condition
  • How recent college grads could benefit from John’s book
  • The daily rhythm of John’s book
  • What a passage from John’s book is like


Duct Tape Marketing

The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business


Marylou: Hey everybody. It’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest, you guys all know John. You can’t not know John. John Jantsch is the founder of Duct Tape Marketing and also author of the book by the same name. He has quite single-handedly transformed so many folks who wanted to get into their own business, maybe solo entrepreneurs, or even I’ve heard from executives at companies who utilized a lot of his practices, to better their craft while they were at the companies.

It’s just wonderful if you guys haven’t been over to John’s site. How long have you been up and running on this now, John?

John: I actually flipped the switch on the site, ducttapemarketing.com, 17 years ago now.

Marylou: Seventeen. Oh, my gosh. Granted, there’s a lot of information out there and he keeps it fresh and interesting. I’ll put his link to all of his connections over there at Duct Tape Marketing. But that’s not the reason why we have this call today with John. We’re here to talk about John’s new book, The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business. Welcome to the podcast, John.

John: Thanks, Marylou. Glad to be here.

Marylou: So, 366. Hmm. To cover the leap year, huh?

John: I did. I have a brother that was born March first in a non-leap year. Had it been a leap year, His birthday would have been February 29th. I don’t want to miss all those people that are born February 29th or they wake up and it’s February 29 because it’s a leap year and they want their daily meditation.

Marylou: There you go. Tell us about what got you along this path. We were sharing before we got on the call how there are some daily meditation folks in a variety of different fields, in a variety of different soul-feeding as I call them. I used to have one on my desk all the time that I read every single day. When I saw that you had done this book, first question is what got you interested in putting out a book like this?

John: The format is not new. I didn’t invent it, obviously, and it’s pretty proven. Fifteen years ago, I used to read The Daily Drucker, which was a business book that was essentially somebody had gone and curated all of Peter Drucker’s—the management consultant and author—writings and put it into a daily thing.

I liked Peter Druker a lot and that was the book I was familiar with. My grandmother worked for Unity Village all of her life and every Christmas, she used to give us a publication they put out called The Daily Word. There’s something about that idea of a short, hopefully inspirational but certainly positive reading to start the day. I put it into my morning routine. I always have.

I read Wayne Dyer and people like that everyday morning type of thing because I feel like it’s one of the best ways to start. It’s like breakfast is the most important meal, like our parents used to say or my mom used to say. Feeding your soul first thing in the day is probably the most important thing you can do.

Marylou: I love the morning rituals of things and part of what I teach, even in Predictable Prospecting is this daily habit. Building micro habits to get to the ultimate habit of being a good prospector and a consistent prospector, and it starts with a daily rhythm and I love this idea. But what is the self-reliant part of the meditation book that you put together?

John: It borrows and maybe I should tell you the structure of the pages. Everyday starts with a title of the page, kind of a big concept. Then, reading from a vein of mid-19th century literature that I think today is still some of the best entrepreneurial writing ever. Then, 150 words from me maybe contextualizing it a little bit around my experience, and then I actually give you a question to ponder everyday as well. There’s a lot going on in each of these short, little pages.

The self-reliant part actually borrows from a very well-known essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson called Self-Reliance and it’s one of those that you often see quoted on Pinterest boards, Instagram and things. There are a lot of entrepreneurs that are familiar with that writing from that time period. But once I dove into that and I’m always been a fan of that writing, but to start looking at the literature, even that. A lot of people are familiar with Rhodes, Walden, and I already mentioned Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

A lot of the fiction that we are asked to read in that time period—Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Little Women—all had characters that the protagonist of each of those works, were all very self-reliant or realized, “I need to go out there and trust myself, realize what I do, control, and don’t control, and then I have a unique gift to bring to the world.”

Again, why did I pick that vein? If you think about what was going on in America at that time—we were in the cusp of the civil war, women were marching the streets to get the right to be heard or to vote, we were trying to abolish slavery—it was really the first counter-culture period in America and the writing that came out of that period was very much, “Hey, you need to think for yourself.” We got ourselves in this cultural and political divide because we didn’t trust ourselves. We listened to politicians, we listened to our preachers, we listened to people who told us we had to do a certain thing, when what we really had to do is just find our own truth and figure out where we fit in the world.

That was revolutionary thinking 150 years ago, but I’m still thinking it is some of the best advice for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have always been, “I’m going to go out there and do my own thing,” but I think this human condition suggest that we also suffer from the fear, the doubt, and people who tell us we can’t make it in the stress of trying to get by everyday. Having this idea of trusting yourself, trusting your ideas, bringing your ideas to the world, and blocking what other people say, is not the same as being a loner and going it alone. It’s trusting yourself to know when you’re getting good advice, when you’re bad advice, when you need to listen, when you need to shut up.

Marylou: Yeah and I think that a lot of it, too, is that trusting in ourselves is a big one in our gut. Really listening to that and not being so influenced by what’s happening out there in the world and the pressures of the world. I read a title of Nicholas of Wall Street Journal. This is 2019 while we’re recording this. It’s crazy out there right now with our political divide. The headline was, Kindness is Trying to Make a Comeback.

John: Marylou, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that we are experiencing maybe a similar period to what they were experiencing in the 1850s and a lot of historians suggest that these things kind of cycle. I think that entrepreneurs have always been one of the sources of goodness and trying to cure the world’s ills, trying to bring their thing to life, and bring value to other people. I think more entrepreneurs are armed with this idea of self-reliance, may actually be one of the paths to creating a little more unity in the world.

Marylou: Yeah and the other thing I know in reading these daily, I call them affirmations, this daily pumping up of the spirit within you and really changing the narrative to, “How do I add more value?” That is the goal of an entrepreneur to begin with this, “How do I add more value?” What else do you think this book could help in terms of entrepreneurs developing either their brand or their purpose?

John: I want to also suggest that a lot of this idea of self-reliance means a huge dollop of empathy as well. What we’re really trying to do is go out […] experience things and find our own path and our own truth. Emerson famously kind of said, “Hey, you get to change your mind.” I think the thing that holds a lot of people back is that they don’t want to disappoint people who already decided you’re this or that, or you can’t do this or you can’t do that.

I think that if you have this view that, “My life is a complete journey, evolving, it’s never done. My whole goal or my whole job is to continue to grow,” if you have all the answers already and you’re not open to new things, how can you possibly go? I actually said that I think that one of our jobs as entrepreneurs is to prove ourselves wrong. Like I said, if we already know all of the answers, then we’re not going to grow.

Marylou: What were some of the things that you learned as you were putting together and curating the actual pages of this book?

John: There were names. I’ve thrown out some names that most people have heard anything Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, Margaret Fuller maybe, but one of the things I learned this is because I had to have 366 entries, so I went very deep into the literature of this era, and I just met so many authors or introduced to so many authors that I was not familiar with, particularly female authors.

It was actually important for me to represent as many female voices in this book as possible, and that was a challenge. Given the time, a lot of women were not allowed to actually publish publicly or to be involved in editing newspapers and […]. A lot of their works only came out much later right after their deaths. So, I dove into journals and letters.

One of the things that was fun in that era and eras past is people wrote beautiful letters back and forth to each other. These letters were often collected later into memoirs, into collections. How expansive these things were throughout was certainly one of the things and then in learning about new things.

The other thing that just struck me time and again, is how often I would read a passage and say, “There’s no way that was written.” 150 years ago. Thoreau was talking about not […] away your time on Facebook. That’s what he was talking about. How did he write that 150 years ago. I think it just suggest that the human condition hasn’t changed. We all have this technology and all these stuff that we blame for all of our stress and our woes, but it’s really the human condition hasn’t changed at all.

Marylou: Let’s expand on that. When you say the human condition, you mean the way we think, feel, act?

John: Yeah, absolutely. We still care about what others think and we still wake up everyday and wonder, “Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?” Again, the tools and the things that we use now because we’re bored or whatever it is, may have changed, but the fact that the vast amount of us are not actually being true to our agreement and chasing the thing that we are meant to be, discovering and then chasing the thing we were meant to do is something that I think is gone throughout time.

Marylou: What are your thoughts on the busyness of today versus back then? Is it a different kind of busyness? Were they just luxuriating in life? I hear that so much that people are so busy now. How does that relate to what you discovered through your curating?

John: I don’t think we’re any busier today than we were. I think we are focused on different things. We no longer have to build our houses, make our clothes, butcher our meat. That’s all done for us now. That’s certainly what took up a significant amount of people’s time in mid-19th century.

But now, we certainly are figuring in the sand. There’s a great, Thoreau passage that talks about this idea how he was talking about it then, so involved in commerce, making money, doing the things that they think they’re supposed to do. They’re not living their lives. I think today, that is absolutely just been replaced by—I’ve already picked on Facebook, I’ll do it again—this social media and the news cycle that’s wearing us out, and the things that we do out of addiction and out of boredom, more than actually going out and seeking real experiences with real people.

Marylou: Yeah, definitely. Is there a generational gap here that you want to talk about? You and I have been doing this for a while now, but if my kids are just coming out of college, how would they benefit from a book like this do you think?

John: It’s funny. As of this writing, this book is so different. Like a lot of authors, I was like, “This makes sense?” I’m sharing it with people of different generations. I happen to have four millennial children and I was sharing with them and just a little sidenote, if you are reading along and you come to a certain date, four times throughout the book, I have four daughters, they wrote the entry for their birthday. So, I got a little contribution from them.

To answer your question, I find that I’m in the tail of the baby boomers, the next generation coming along right behind me. We listed this book and I’m starting to think about impact. What impact have I had? What difference have I made? And those themes certainly run through this book. The millennial or younger generation that I shared this with is very energized by the positive message, is actually very interested in the literature.

I think they’re far enough removed from when they were forced to read some of this, that they now start looking at applying the context of this literature to what they’re now doing in their careers, in their own life. I feel like they come to it with a lot of energy and the older generation come through a little more is that like you said, feeding the soul, looking back, reflecting, and seeing the sense.

In some ways, this is a book that took me 30 years to write, so it is sort of a reflection on my total experience and I see folks that have been in the game for a little while, but that are starting to look at that as well.

Marylou: And I think like you said, the self-reflection, seeing how life was then, that it really hasn’t changed all that much in the sense of human behavior, and that transforms anyone who’s reading these passages to really get an understanding of their purpose, the brand purpose, their purpose, why they serve, how they add value, and that the struggles that we experience today are really no different.

Like you said, change the media, change the channel of what it is that’s affecting us, but at the end of the day, belly-to-belly, we’re a person-to-person communication and it’s impossible to lose sight of that, that we really are a human-to-human in all of our interactions, whether we are entrepreneurs or not.

I just love this idea. I can already hear my audience. “Well, we don’t have time to read a whole book.” What is the daily rhythm that you think would be nice for consuming?

John: The beauty of this book is that you don’t read it. In fact, I can’t imagine picking this book up and reading it cover-to-cover because everyday is just a nugget for you to think about. I like to tell people to think of this as a practice more than a book. You pick up today’s reading, you read that, you think about, and if that makes sense, I said we have a challenge question at the end of everyday. My publisher allowed me to put a couple of lines at the bottom of each of those so they can actually jot some notes. […] just thinking about it or take it into the day and just witness how it shows up in your day.

I think that’s the real key. We don’t have some intention setting for everyday, then you go out there and life hits you in the face. Next thing you know, it’s five o’clock and you go, “I […] what I did today but I sure was busy.”

Marylou: Yeah. We call it winging it.

John: Yeah, but I think having that thought to think about each day, what it does is then as things happen, maybe you start to go, “Oh, that’s how that applies to what I’m doing today,” because you’re not going to read a book like this and go, “Ah, totally nailed this. I’m self-reliant.”

Marylou: You’re right, exactly.

John: And that’s true of any book. Think about the books that have really impacts you. I’ve gone back and read so many books, 10, 12, 15 times and they have a different meaning to me because I’m a different person. I think that, that’s the idea behind this and that’s why I call it a practice.

Salespeople—a lot of times, not all—when you’re out there prospecting, sometimes you’re facing a lot of rejection, you’re facing other people’s negativity sometimes. Arming yourself with a little bit of a shield maybe for that or really more than that, allowing you, hopefully, to react to it in a different way because that’s really the only thing we control and it really comes down to it.

How we show up and how we change to respond to everything that happens everyday is the only thing we control. Hopefully, you’ll find some passage that hit you in a particular way that day and it helps you better respond and process other people’s problems, input, and feedback.

Marylou: And it’s called daily meditation, so there are lessons embedded in the passages that you read everyday, that you internalize, you self-reflect, you observe during the day. This is going to be an interesting practice for those people who do get up and just go, and don’t think about where they’re going or how they’re going to get there. This is probably a must-read for those people who do want to incorporate heart, hand, as well as head during the day and get all the balance that they need.

Do you have a favorite passage that you can read us, a daily meditation you can read to us?

John: Well, that’s like asking me if I’m a favorite child.

Marylou: Okay. Then just randomly pick one then.

John: I’m sure that if I went through and I go, “Oh, yeah. I really particularly like that one,” but I went really deep in this literature, so these are not social media quotes. I mean, these are things I said are like letters, journals, and…

Marylou: Are Instagram, those Instagram things.

John: Right. These are a little deeper. To tell you the truth, Marylou, maybe the best way to give people an example is I’ll just read one, an entire day takes two minutes. Give your listeners an exact idea of not only the content, but how long it would take them to read one and reflect.

Marylou: Let’s do that.

John: I just pulled one up. It starts with a title and then a reading from the literature, then 150 or so words from me, and a challenge question. So, here we go.

Marylou: All right.

John: Failure’s message. “However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.” That’s from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, 1854.

Marylou: Wow, amazing.

John: And then my reflection on it. “So, let’s face it. At some point, everybody gets knocked down. Things don’t go as planned, but it’s how you handle adversity that would come the ultimate expression of your success. There are only so many things you have control over and number one on that list is how you think and feel about daily events. We can’t control the weather, what others say about us, or when someone decides to rip our ideas off as their own. We can’t control failure or paradise. We can only decide what we want to learn from it, and the lessons are countless.

In some cases, what we see as failure is a mistake or error in judgment on our part, coming home to roost. Or it could just be something we weren’t quite ready to pull of in precisely the manner we chose. But either way, there’s a lesson if we wish to accept it. The fantastic thing about growing as an entrepreneur is that either you flame out through resistance of things like change and failure, and oh, hard work, or you learn to accept that all is as it should be. The key is to love the setting sun from where you are right now, or you’ll always find it hard to love the setting sun, no matter how high you soar by some other person’s gauge of your success.”

Marylou: Amen.

John: Your challenge question for the day: Who is one entrepreneur you deeply admire. Why?

Marylou: Nice. That would be sitting on my desk to come in and read in the morning before I start my day.

John: Yeah and I think it can be part of a larger practice. I have for years spent some time in the morning meditating, journaling, reading. I try to throw exercising every morning. I have about an hour or an hour-and-a-half in some cases that I take pretty much every morning for myself and for those people that go, “Wow, I don’t have an hour-and-a-half.” I contend that it gives me more time back than years in terms of me being more focused and productive.

Marylou: And then I would add to that because my troops here understand that concept of micro habits that we build. We’re not going to get to that hour-and-a-half necessarily, not all of us, so let’s build one thing. And I always talk about my push-up and pull-up goals. Then, I started with 1 push-up, now I’m up to 25. I still am struggling on the pull-up thing, but I’m getting there.

I think this is something that we’re going to add to our daily rhythm. I like the mornings, some people like the evening, but sit down and just reflect. Really this book is great for that. I love it. I’m so glad that you did this.

John: I actually do morning and evening because I find that if you take that evening out, the whole day has happened to you and it’s just like, “Okay, what did I learn from today?” Again, like you said, microsteps.

This was the hardest book I’ve ever written by far. It was the most fun and I’m thrilled to bring it to the world and hopefully it will, as Henderson said, scatter some joy.

Marylou: Scatter some joy. The book again, folks, is The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business. John, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today and sharing this. I’ll put all the links. I know there’s probably a selfreliantentrepreneur.com out there or something.

John: There is.

Marylou: Yes, there is. There you go. So that we can make sure that we put that in the show notes. Anything else you want to add before we say goodbye? And thank you for your time.

John: No. I think we’ve said pretty much all. As you said, selfreliantentrepreneur.com is where you can find more on the book and obviously it is available wherever you choose to buy books. There’ll be a Kindle version as well as an audio book version.

Marylou: Nice. This is published by Wiley, so we’ll see it at the bookstore, too, correct?

John: Absolutely.

Marylou: That’s great. Well, John, thanks again. Remember guys, […] Duct Tape Marketing as well. There’s a ton of information on that site that helps with business development, sales executives, marketers. You pretty much cover everything over there. So, the well-rounded entrepreneur, who’s both marketing, operations, servicing, and sales. You are covered by John’s site, Duct Tape Marketing. Thanks again, John. I really appreciate your time.

John: My pleasure.