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SPI 712: The Creator Economy Middle-Class—Roundtable with Jason Feifer, Terry Rice, and Matt Gartland

Many of the highest performers—the people we often try to emulate—are actually miserable. You see, there are trade-offs in chasing extraordinary success that may not appeal to us once we understand what they are.

So where’s the sweet spot? How do we build a business we’re proud of without sacrificing everything else in the process?

Here’s the thing—most people find incredible fulfillment in operating at a level of mastery in a small niche. This creator economy middle class is the topic of today’s fantastic discussion between Jason Feifer, Terry Rice, Matt Gartland, and me.

In this roundtable session, we help you define your version of success and discover the mindset to help you achieve it. We also arm you with the most impactful tools we’re using right now and share a reading list to inspire you and shift your perspective.

This is the second of our quarterly Entrepreneur Podcast Network discussions, meant to provide actionable tips to help you secure your financial well-being. For more, listen in on our chat with Jason in episode 670 to learn how to win big in a recession!

Today’s Guests

Jason Feifer

Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, author of the book Build For Tomorrow, a startup advisor, and podcast host. LinkedIn named him a “Top Voice in Entrepreneurship” for 2022.

Terry Rice

Terry Rice is a business development consultant and staff writer at Entrepreneur magazine. He’s also the host of Launch Your Business, a podcast that helps entrepreneurs make money, save time, and avoid burnout. His previous experience includes internal consulting roles at Adobe and Facebook.

Based in Brooklyn, Terry is an instructor at New York University, speaks at business development events on behalf of Amazon and Google, and has been featured as a subject matter expert by Good Morning America.

Matt Gartland

Matt is a 5x startup founder/co-founder with three meaningful exits to date. Today, Matt serves as CEO of SPI Media, a venture he co-founded with good friend Pat Flynn to take the SPI business to the next level. His entrepreneurial career spans digital media, ecommerce, and the creator economy. Beyond his own ventures, Matt is an advisor to and/or angel investor in such tech companies as Circle, Karat, Maven, and Supercast.

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SPI 712: The Creator Economy Middle-Class—Roundtable with Jason Feifer, Terry Rice, and Matt Gartland

Jason Feifer: In my role, I get to meet some of the largest personalities A lot of them are miserable. And there are trade offs in achieving incredible success that may not be appealing to you once you understand what they are.

But you know what? Most people actually find incredible success by being incredibly specific and niche. and then being a master of being useful to those people. And that, means that you’re going to be operating at a smaller level, but you’re going to be doing it at a level of mastery, which is, I think, what the thing we really all want, is to feel like we’re doing amazingly.

Pat Flynn: Hey everybody, welcome in. This is session 712 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. And typically on these Fridays, you hear from just me, but it’s not just me today. I have Matt in the house. What’s up, Matt? How are you?

Matt Gartland: Hey, I’m great. Glad to be back.

Pat Flynn: Glad you’re here. And you’re not here just for an interview or conversation between you and me.

We are doing our Entrepreneur Roundtable, which happens every once in a while here on the show. So you got a little bonus because it’s not just even Matt and I, it is a couple other amazing guests. Matt, would you like to introduce who is going to be on the show with us on this little round table today?

Matt Gartland: Would love to. It’s our second one of these. So we’re inviting back Jason Feifer the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, and then the extra special guest today is Terry Rice, a phenomenal entrepreneur, specialist in business development. He’s a really big contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. And the four of us sit down and have some really important conversations that I’m excited to get into.

Pat Flynn: We’re going to talk about some stuff that matters to you right now. And it’s going to be great, because we have four different perspectives and you’ll hear when we all agree on something. You’ll hear when we question each other and perhaps even disagree too. So listen in. Thank you so much for being here and enjoy the conversation.

Here we go.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host. Getting laid off in 2008 was the best thing to ever happen to him, although it didn’t feel like it at the time. Pat Flynn.

Matt Gartland: Alright guys, welcome. To the round table. It’s great to have everyone here. So Terry, Jason, Pat, awesome to be together again.

Jason Feifer: Always is.

Pat Flynn: We’re back, baby.

Matt Gartland: Well, we’re going to jump right into it. So the creator economy middle class, it’s a really important concept. Li Jin, I think kind of really popularized the term several years back with her Harvard Business Review article.

Terry, like, I know that you kind of think about this a lot as well in terms of like having people get successful independently and not just thinking about the long tail. So I’m kind of curious, just like your general hot takes on the concept at large of the creator economy middle class and what that really means for us right now, trying to help educate a lot of entrepreneurs in that discipline.

Terry Rice: Yeah. I mean, what really stood out to me one time is I was working with one of my vendors who made my website and I was like, Hey, you’re doing an amazing job with this. I’d like to spread the word to more people. How about I write an article about you for my column through Entrepreneur? That way you’ll get more branding, more exposure. It’d be wonderful.

And she’s like, I don’t want that. And I’m like, well, what do you mean? She’s like, I’m really happy right now working with the people that I like. I sustain myself. I have time for my family and my husband. I don’t want to get that big. And I was like, what do you mean? This makes no sense, right?

But that’s when I realized, I mean, years ago, I mean, like hundreds of years ago, when you had your own business, it was to support yourself. Like if you made shoes, like I make shoes, that’s how I feed my kids and you know, support my family. It wasn’t to become a shoe mogul, but in more modern times, people feel like if they’re not making like, you know, six figures or seven figures, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re failing.

And that’s why I think this conversation about the creator middle class is so important because. There are people feeling like failures, feeling like they’re messing up, feeling less than because they aren’t millionaires. But it’s like, Hey, if you take a look around, you might be doing okay. Right. Do you have, do you have, do you have wifi?

You know, your kid’s happy. Like you’re doing okay. And I think the more we advance that conversation, the better all the people will feel as well.

Matt Gartland: Yeah, I agree. I think bringing sort of a rationalization to like, what are what are good goals to have right for us, given our life circumstances, how we’re trying to support our family, trying to think about the the outlier examples and comparing ourselves always to to those folks that are maybe a bit more in the spotlight or being celebrated like it doesn’t always produce healthy sort of relationships with our own work.

I think sometimes you know that the mental health component is not insignificantly small. It’s probably insignificantly large. Yeah. As we think about trying to grow our own work on our own businesses. Pat, like you’ve been in this, in this game for obviously so long. I’m kind of curious to see how you think about especially over the last decade now, your relationship to the work in context of this middle class that we’re trying to talk about, trying to support independent folks to be successful on their own terms.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean, defining what success means to you is going to be really important. And that definition is going to be different for everybody, of course. And in the beginning, you know, I was kind of just going with the flow and not really considering what actual success meant other than I just got to keep growing.

I just got to keep growing. And that led to a lot of potential burnout. Luckily, I connected with you and had a nice team to help support a lot of that growth. But most people either don’t have that luxury or don’t know how to go about doing that. And it can lead to, like you said, some, some not so great mental health.

Along the way and the first time I was introduced to this concept of you don’t have to grow, which again is still revolutionary for a lot of people was Paul Jarvis and company of one that book, and I interviewed him for the show here a while back, and it was just it was pretty eye opening to say, like, Yeah, I’m doing okay.

Like I just need 10 clients and as long as I have 10 clients, I’m doing my thing. Like I could live a happy life and I think that’s really great. And I’m so glad we’re starting off this conversation today talking about that. Cause you know, I want to challenge all of you who are listening to define what success really is and you know, is growth actually required for you to obtain that.

In many cases, maybe not, or maybe not as much as you thought.

Matt Gartland: Yeah, and where, like, where is that growth occurring? Is it always just chasing revenue growth, right? I mean, there’s different ways to grow as an entrepreneur. Yeah, I think so. We have bringing more fidelity to the definitions and then how we talk about it is important.

And we don’t often always, like, get a moment to, like, take a breath. At least I find in pause and zoom out and kind of have these broader conversations. Right. So, so thinking about, yeah, like, it’s great to be on TikTok on YouTube and growing massive followings or at least learning from folks like that, but they even and I wanted to bring some of the specifics into the conversation.

Now, now they’re a little bit dated. They’re going back to the original article from the end of 2020. So kind of, you know, on the cusp of 2021, but even then, you know, some of the stats that she was reporting in the article, the top 10 creators on Substack were generating seven plus million dollars collectively, like out proportionately overperforming like the long tail of the creators on Substack.

Patreon, only 2% of creators on Patreon were making the federal minimum wage. On Spotify, the top 1.4% of artists were making 90% of the royalties, right? So there’s this massive outlier effect on any of these platforms that you know, are probably in some level of consideration for us, right, as online entrepreneurs and creators that we’re using to grow businesses and monetize the work that we do.

And the folks that get celebrated and put forward as the shining star examples that we want to emulate, right? Are, are probably not going to be the comparable examples that most people can approach, right? So it’s again, calibrating that around success. And how do we, especially those of us that are teaching skills, like we do at SPI, Jason, as you do even through the magazine, I’ll come to you next is like, how do we rationalize and normalize how we’re, yes, defining success and then finding match fit to the skills and aptitude to try to train, you know, our students and our audience at large to understand how you can find success on your own terms and not be maybe beholden to these larger outlier ideas, you know, these examples.

Jason with, with you in, in that range. Yeah. I’m really curious to kind of hear what you’re thinking about.

Jason Feifer: Oh my God. So this is such a valuable conversation. We’re really marrying two things. I just wanna step back and kind of contextualize, we’re marrying this idea of the creator middle class, which is really an argument that a lot of these platforms end up primarily supporting the few at major scale.

So you have the big winners, the Mr. Beasts of YouTube, and you have the big winners on Substack and then the rest of the people using it aren’t making anywhere near that amount. And therefore there’s this argument that these platforms aren’t necessarily living up to the promise of being good hosts of a more robust creator economy.

So we’re, we’re marrying that observation, which I think is a little complicated with this very important conversation that we should always be having about how to define success. It’s how to find purpose in your work. I’m reminded of a couple things which I’ll just, just offer really quickly.

Which is, one, there was a Reddit post that recently went viral. I don’t know if you guys saw it. The headline was I recently hit 1.5 million, but I’m exhausted and dead inside as a person who’s worked endlessly to now earn a 550,000 salary. But it came at a cost, this person writes. I have zero social life or relationships.

I’ve been addicted to weed for years and I’m on antidepressants. I feel like a zombie. That’s a great cautionary tale. And it reminds me of something that I think I might’ve shared on the last SPI round table, which was this line that my friend Catherine Morgan Schaffler said to me, which is what’s the point of building something if you can’t maintain it?

And I think about that all the time. Because what is the point of building something if you can’t maintain it? I’ve laid out these two things and here’s the connection point that I’m gonna offer to them. Which is you have to think really holistically about what it is that you’re doing and why you’re doing it and how your actions lead to some kind of result that you want, that you can identify.

And I think that it’s a mistake to look at the earnings on Substack, for example, and say, oh, well, it’s a failure for all the people who aren’t earning at that very top level. For a couple reasons. Number one, because as Terry said, some people don’t want to put endless amounts of time into growing endlessly, but also because a lot of smart people are using Substack as part of a larger ecosystem.

And you should be thinking about it like that. If you’re thinking of yourself as engaging in any kind of creator economy, don’t think that just posting on YouTube should be your business, or just posting on Substack should be your business. Maybe they’re just a way to get you attention and then you convert those people in some other way.

Maybe it’s just a way to work out ideas and then you take that intellectual property and you start to utilize it in other ways that connect you with people and turn it into a bigger, better business. There are a lot of different ways to think about this. And I think that the more we focus on what we ultimately want out of it, which for me, for example, is I keep thinking about full autonomy of my time.

That’s the reason I do what I do. I want full autonomy of my time. The more that we can define those things, the more that we can start working backwards from them and utilize all these things as tools to help us get there.

Matt Gartland: Terry, I have the benefit of seeing you in the room here and you’re Just nodding along.

So yeah, what, what thoughts are popping to mind off that?

Terry Rice: Yeah. One thing that comes to mind is when we think of the creator economy, I think we confuse creators with influencers. So an influencer needs to have a large following, right? Otherwise they’re not a good marketing channel, but a creator just needs to create good stuff.

And I don’t think a lot of people realize that. So as a creator, you can reach out to a larger brand and say, I will make this video about me and my kids going to your theme park and enjoying it, and you can share that with your audience. They might say, Oh, but Terry, you only got 5,000 followers on Instagram.

I would say, Yeah, but I got four kids, right? So you could put some ad dollars behind this, reaching millions of people and have a great story. So realize as a creator, that is a job, right? There are people who work for Disney World that work for Nike, xyz, who are internal creators, that is their job to get paid, right?

It doesn’t matter how many followers they have on Instagram. So you as an external creator, you don’t have to have a bajillion followers to create good content. In fact, yours might be fresher than people who seemed like a bit more manufactured. So lean into that, lean into that, that freshness and that spontaneity that you might have.

That’s someone who’s more, more prim and practice wouldn’t have.

Jason Feifer: Matt, actually, sorry. I know you’re, you’re, you’re basically moderating, but, oh, you’re, you’re shaking your fist at me because you don’t want me to jump in and mess things up. But can I, can I just say really quick that what Terry is saying here is really getting to what is the business model of the thing that you’re making.

And if you’re not thinking about that, that you’ll get your, yeah, I, I, you go down because I just, I wanted to make sure that people were really like translating that properly.

Matt Gartland: No, you can keep riffing on it. I just wanted to riff on the same thing. So yeah, it’s incepting their brain like he normally does.

So in a lot of these articles there’s the interplay between the term creator and the term influencer. And, and sometimes that really annoys me just to be perfectly blunt with it, right? Because to me, I don’t see them as perfect synonyms. I think there’s really important differences between the two. And they overlap and they’re composite models from Jason, yes, a business model standpoint, or how certain identities and personas, right, are being developed and grown online.

By getting to the actual kind of economics of the model itself, at least for me and having studied this, I look at influencers in terms of monetizing their audience. They try to get really big on a singular channel or a platform. And then, and this is even true being born out in some of the data that a lot of the dollars, you know, that are being generated, at least by influencers, by growing big channels are either by ads or brand deals.

And even just this past April, Goldman Sachs put out a really authoritative piece with a lot of data as well. Economic insight data. And I’ll quote something quickly from it is that, you know, It was around 70% of revenue is being generated by brand deals. And by comparison, say courses is like less than 10%.

So like when we talk about, especially in the SPI universe and kind of our broader universe is like courses are really important, but in terms of this like industry wide sort of analysis on, on revenue, courses are very small compared to brand deals. But brand deals are disproportionately, I think, accessible to folks that are directly monetizing their channels, their audiences and increasingly big ones. And that’s a little more akin to like the influencer idea. Whereas like creators, that term actually came from course creators. That was the original like idea that kind of got truncated from course creators, just down to creators to become a more like sticky idea.

So it’s a really interesting and I think important nuance and synonyms.

Pat, you probably have a ton to say on the subject. You swing and swim in kind of both worlds, right? So I’m kind of curious how you see it, if you disagree, or how you think about even teaching this for someone who’s maybe listening and trying to figure out their own identity. And how does that even play an impact, right, on the model I’m trying to build?

Pat Flynn: First of all, you have to know what message you’re trying to share and who you’re sharing it for, but also who would benefit from that message. In the case of an influencer, it might be an entertainment based message. It might be something that you are helping people with, right. But from a creator’s perspective, I feel like the lanes open up even more for you.

The opportunities open up because like what Terry was saying, your message is now beneficial to a brand or a hotel or a corporation who can now use your story, despite you only having a few hundred subscribers, because you perfectly fit the same model that they are trying to sell to. And so I think that’s really important to understand that we have a lot of use cases for the messages that we have to share, but this all comes down to you believing in what it is that you’re sharing.

And I think that whether you are an influencer or especially a creator, it’s really important to have confidence in what it is that you’re sharing and what you’re putting out there. And that’s something I feel that’s also lacking or the, the ability for a person to really get behind the things that they’re saying, or to have sticky points, to plant a flag in the ground that other people can rally behind.

I think we, and I was very much afraid of doing that. I always wanted to play it safe. And as a result of playing it safe, not any one brand or any, you know, for a while people were just like, Oh, Pat is helping everybody. But, you know, there’s other people who I might have more belief in or who I can get more behind and rally behind.

Lately, however, we’ve been a lot more stringent, a lot more purposeful with the messages we share and the lines that we’re drawing, right. The idea that especially a big one recently for us is like, if you don’t build a community in your brand, you were, you were going to be left behind. You have to be focusing on community.

And we’re trying to not just say that but also lead by example and the leading by example, a lot of that, you know, actions are louder than words. And a lot of that speaks for us as both in an influencer that I am and also, you know, a creator too.

Matt Gartland: I think at SPI, though we don’t use this language, at least not historically, like in our marketing or in our positioning, but we are really speaking to that middle class idea.

You know, we’re not necessarily trying to help galvanize, you know the next Mr. Beast, right. To kind of come out of our, our communities per se. If that happens, it happens. Yeah. But I think much more in terms of even what pat you were mentioning there in terms of our, our deliberateness with the programming and how we’re cultivating our communities more than ever now is more to just help that kind of middle class individual to be able to support their family to maybe hit six figures.

If that’s the number they choose for themselves, right? It’s not to hit seven figures or multi seven figure, right? It’s, it’s much more that middle class idea. And it goes back to again, that, that Li Jin article that kind of at least really popularized, I think this term, and she probably in fact, even coined it in that article.

She even laid out like 10 strategies, right. For consideration to like, think about for folks that want to, in fact, just find middle class level success, right. As creators, you know, slash influencers. And two of them I wrote down both speak to community. So I’d like to think that we’re trying to kind of walk that talk, you know, at least on the SPI side, very much, Pat, to your point.

Pat Flynn: I have a question for all three of you, actually. And it’s something that comes to mind as somebody who is very optimistic, very much, you know, growth minded. How does one, if I could phrase it differently, perhaps, but how does one be okay with not growing big? The idea of just going, yeah, I’m going to go middle ground, even just that term, middle class.

A lot of people, creators want to be the best. A lot of people who are of the entrepreneurial type want to be at the top. And so it feels like there’s a little bit of a dissonance and a tension between, I want to be the best. I want to go out there and provide the best information and get recognized for that, but I don’t want to grow too big either.

So. There’s like a push and pull there. How does one, and Terry, I’d love to ask you since you started this conversation today, how does one mentally understand what opportunities to say yes to and what opportunities to say no to to stay within the space that would keep them comfortable and happy and not overworked?

Terry Rice: It starts with something people avoid, which is deep work. Just having a very clear understanding of what is the vision for your life, right. What do you want to be doing in the weekends? How do you want to be perceived? What interactions do you want with your family? And once you define that, you think to yourself, okay, well, how can I live in that life, right?

What do I have to do to become, learn, experience, sacrifice to be there? And oftentimes what you want is not to be on the cover of USA Today, right? It’s to be able to go to your kid’s soccer game, right. So you have to go to the gym during the day without someone yelling at you for being away from your desk.

So I think when you have that vision initially, then there’s two things you have to do. One is focus. The other is filter. Filtering is so easy because filtering is saying, look, there’s certain industries I don’t work with. There’s certain products I don’t do. That comes my way. Hell no, not doing it.

Focusing is harder because focusing involves you realizing that sometimes distractions are actually opportunities in disguise. So someone might say, Hey, Terry, we’d love to have you come to Sri Lanka and do this presentation. We’re going to give you all this money. Oh, you’re going to miss your kid’s graduation, but you’re going to give her all this money.

That’s you focusing on what’s most important in your vision. So it all starts with that deep inner work. What do you actually want from your life? And then take the steps necessary to live there while also avoiding other distractions along the way.

Matt Gartland: I like that a lot. Jason, how about you?

Jason Feifer: Two things come to mind. Pat, it’s a great question.

Number one is that I think it’s important for people to understand what the lives are of the people who are doing the things you want to do at maximum scale. And the answer is, it is often not the life that you want. I have discovered this for myself, and I will use no names here, but I bet all four of us know the kinds of people, if not these specific people that I’m talking about.

In my role, I get to meet and sometimes get to know quite well some of the largest personalities and I will tell you something. A lot of them are miserable. They’re miserable, miserable people. And I think that in some ways, they always had a hole that they were trying to fill, and the efforts to fill that hole, which can never be filled, is what drove them to be more successful in their way than I will ever be.

And I am okay with that, because I don’t want that burden. And I think that there are trade offs in achieving incredible success in one realm that may not be quite appealing to you once you understand what they are. So it’s helpful to remember that, that not everything is great just because it looks great.

Then number two is to think about what it actually means to create success. And oftentimes, yes, there are a couple people and you can think of all their names. There are a couple of people who just reach incredible scale just by doing, just by doing it really well, right? Mr. Beast reaches bazillions of people.

But you know what? Most people actually find incredible success by being incredibly specific and niche. By identifying a very specific audience and community, and then being a master of being useful to those people. And that, by its very nature, means that you’re going to be operating at a smaller level, but you’re going to be doing it at a level of mastery, which is, I think, what the thing we really all want, is to feel like we’re doing amazingly.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to be reaching everyone to do it.

Matt Gartland: I love both those points. It reminds me, perhaps, as a way of… attempting to find some of that harmony and balance, like in practice, the just timeless adage of you are the, you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most, right?

So if you’re surrounding yourself with five, Mr. Beasts, right? Either in your personal life or those are the five people you’re choosing, consciously or maybe even subconsciously right to be like, they are my role models. These five people and they all share these outlier conditions, right? That’s going to create, I would think a risky mental health proposition, right?

Or skewed sense of reality or what you could achieve in terms of that definition of success. Versus if you can be a little more conscious, Terry’s point, doing a little more of the deeper work to really understand those motivations, those constraints and boundaries you want to respect for yourself and your family, and then bring a composite to the table.

I don’t think it’s bad necessarily to have maybe one of those five people to be a little more outlier success as an inspiration. They’re not who I want to emulate every facet of my professional life or personal life. But like one of those to study and gain some bits of inspiration, but to find more balance around the other four people that like in my head and heart, I’m bringing into that kind of inner circle that I want to be the average of.

Pat Flynn: This idea that Jason, you proposed of like understanding more about the life of the person who’s at the top, just to kind of see what that’s like is very important.

There’s, we live in a perfect age now where we can understand exactly how that is because a lot of these people are being interviewed and being very open and honest about what their life is like. Case in point, we’ve mentioned him a few times already, but mr. Beast He was recently on an interview with Colin and Samir on YouTube I highly recommend you watch it something like one hour 42 minutes and they go deep into the day and life of Mr. Beast. And Mr. Beast, like, basically sleeps in his studio warehouse, wakes up, does videos, works out, does videos, editing, goes to bed. And that’s his daily life every day. And if he happens to go outside, he gets swarmed, he is absolutely unable to be in public anymore without any sort of just mob chasing after him.

And he’s okay with that. He is not miserable because that’s the life that he chose and that he wants. He is obsessed with YouTube and that’s what he wants to do. But a lot of kids I know want to be like Mr. Beast, but don’t know that that’s exactly what his life is like. And if you were to learn that about what that person’s doing and then ask yourself is that what I want then you can decide well, maybe, that’s actually not what I want. I want a smaller version of that All right I want to find another person who I can emulate a person who I was inspired by was Michael Hyatt, who is a sort of a leader of leaders in this space.

And the reason I resonated with him is because when I went to one of his events, he was sitting in the audience It was his event but he was sitting in the audience learning and his family was there helping to run the event with him and as a family man myself that really resonated with me and that life, I would much rather emulate than, for example, a Mr. Beast, and now he’s doing less work and fishing a lot more, and I’m like, this, this is my guy, because that’s what I want to do too. So, I, I really appreciate that, Mark, there, and maybe some homework for people who do have inspirations out there to dig deeper into who those people are and what exactly they’re doing.

You’re likely to find them on an interview somewhere on YouTube or on a podcast for Jason, Terry, with you guys, spilling the beans and sharing what life is really

Terry Rice: like. Two things. One is what you just said reminds me of this statement I heard. You can have anything, but you can’t have everything, right?

So you have to decide like what you want to sacrifice in order to get these, these other things. But your point about like people when you meet them in real life, you know, are they happy? Are they miserable? Are they so and so forth? The first time I met Jason was at this, this gym class that our kids were going to here in Brooklyn.

And what really stuck to me was, wow, he’s actually a dad. He’s like doing dad stuff on a weekend. And I respected him even more just by seeing that. I was like, wow, he’s, he’s, he’s a human, you know? And like, that’s how we hit it off.

Jason Feifer: Yeah. And Terry recognized me in public, which is a rare treat for me. Well, I appreciate that Terry.

And yeah, I mean, I, I mean, look, I’m not, I, I don’t have the demands on my life that like actual famous people do because I’m not, but I do try to in my talking about myself and presenting myself, make it very clear that those are things that I’m choosing because I think it’s important for people to remember that everything that you have in your life is a choice and a trade off and, and that the things that you might see just out of reach, when you start to get some of them, you will discover that they don’t transform you and they often don’t feel better than things you already value.

I remember reading this piece by the Obstacle is the Way guy, Ryan, Ryan Holiday. Ryan Holiday, thank you. Ryan Holiday wrote this blog post, or whatever it was, about what it’s like to become a New York Times number one bestseller. And he described mowing his lawn when he got the call from his agent, or whoever it was, who told him, like, your book has reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Ryan was happy to hear that. And then the phone call ended. And then he looked around and he was like, well, now what do I do? And he went back to mowing the lawn. Cause what are you going to do? It’s your life didn’t change, you know? And, and this is something that I’ve discovered for myself as I have set goals and met those goals, which is that I don’t feel any different and you never will because achievement is not like winning the lottery. It’s not like, Oh my gosh, suddenly everything is different. It’s like, Oh, it’s actually just the next incremental step towards something that I’ve been moving towards. So make sure that you’re picking the things that are actually incredibly valuable to you are going to be additive to you and that live nicely alongside the things that you really truly value because that is the only way to build happiness.

Terry Rice: Jason, can I jump in real quick on that one? Because it reminds me of e commerce and I’m sure this has happened to all of us before. Right. You’re online. You see this jacket, like, oh, the jacket’s amazing. You know, you’re so happy about it. You order it. Oh, two days. I got to wait two days. I want it right now.

And then it comes and you’re like, eh, sweet. Yeah, it’s the anticipation. Sometimes it’s more enjoyable than the actual reception of this thing. So I think it’s the same with some of the accomplishments that we have in our life. Like, oh, we think it’s going to be so amazing when it happens. And then when it does, you’re like, yeah, what, what, what is next?

Right. So we want to get out of that trap. We’ll always thinking we have to do more to be more.

Matt Gartland: What triggers for me on off of that, Terry, kind of going back to the business model and for, especially for folks that again, are maybe resonating with this conversation around like the creator economy, middle class and trying to themselves build middle class businesses is so much of the, the joy and the satisfaction more than the anticipation is being able to see the impact in the people that we have the privilege of serving and working with.

And I think that, you know, smaller businesses and the way that we’re kind of discussing here, that those are with models that are a bit more rooted in say education or training versus just only generating revenue through brand deals and in audience monetization, at least for me, like I light up about that, right?

It’s not about the fame. I can still be a dad on the weekends and by no means am I pursuing fame. So I don’t think we have that problem, but that to me kind of like speaks to some of these qualities that we’re kind of circling here, which that’s unique for me. I’d love to even throw it up maybe one more time around the room to kind of wrap up on on the middle class kind of conversation.

But yeah, Pat, let me go to you next in terms of maybe like a parting thought or piece of advice for folks trying to build this notion of a greater economy and middle class business.

Pat Flynn: I’m reminded of a tale or a fable or whatever you call it, like this guy, he goes on a fishing trip to Mexico and he rents out a charter boat and he has such a great time.

You know, he’s fishing, doing what he wants to do. And the guy who owns the charter boat, the fleet says, Hey, you know, you should join me. Let’s do this boat thing together. Let’s, let’s start this company. Let’s grow it even bigger. We can have dozens of charter boats and bring more people in. And he’s like just getting excited about it because of the money, the possibility.

He knows what it’s like to be a fisherman, wants that experience for others, too. And he ends up working so hard. And 30 years later, he’s got this giant fleet of 100 boats and he has no time to fish himself. And he said, if only I could just retire so that I could go fishing, which is exactly where this whole thing started, right?

And it’s, we get so caught up in the opportunity that we forget about what’s right in front of us. And, and that’s just the lasting message that I have. It’s more about the idea that, you know, sometimes we just need to slow down. That’s what I feel like the pandemic did so well for a lot of people, even though it was terrible.

There were a lot of great things that came out of the pandemic, especially for me personally. It allowed me to slow down so I could pay attention to the things that were right in front of me and really begin to enjoy them and begin to, you know, figure things out in a way where, no, I don’t need to be on the road every single month in order to succeed.

And I’m so grateful for that. So yeah, that’s perhaps my parting word on that.

Matt Gartland: Terry, we’ll end with you because that’s where we started. So Jason, final piece of advice.

Jason Feifer: Yeah. So I’m going to build off of when Terry was introducing the idea of thinking about the different business models and then I obnoxiously cut Matt off to talk about it because I was so excited.

And the reason for that is because I think it’s important to think about business model as a means of knowing what it takes to build the thing that you want, to achieve the thing you want. And. If you just think about, you know, so Terry made this great point about the difference between influencers and creators, and those are different business models because they’re, they’re, they’re monetizing at different scales, but in different ways, right?

So if you are just trying to make money off of ads inside of a thing that you make, well then guess what? You got to reach millions of people because your CPMs are low. Now you’re going to get a 20 every thousand people that you reach or something like that. And so that means that you have to work at this incredible scale, which means that you have to drive yourself absolutely insane producing video after video and sleeping in the studio like Mr Beast does in order to do that. But you know what, you don’t actually have to do that if you think about your business model differently, if you think that actually all I need to do is I need to reach 5,000 people so that 500 of them will buy something at X amount of dollars, and that is going to support the lifestyle that I want.

Well, then suddenly the thing that you’re building looks very, very different because getting 500 people to buy something is incredibly different than getting one million people to follow something every single week. So think about what it is that you’re building and the model that you can use in a liberating way to build something that is really sustainable for you.

I have shifted myself and how I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I come from traditional media where we think about things in millions. And as I, as I’ve built things for myself and, and, and created my own relationships with my own audience, I’ve realized that actually working at a much smaller scale and developing deeper relationships and then building things that are going to matter to a much smaller number of people is the thing that actually gets me to what I have just said I wanted a few minutes ago, which is full autonomy of my time.

It is a game changer.

Terry Rice: We should have a follow up episode with Jason, how he’s getting full autonomy of his time with all those kids, but we’ll save that for later. Let’s go back to that business model conversation because you can still be a middle class creator, but demand more from others, including yourself, in regards to your prices.

And I’ll give you an example. Let’s pretend you have this online course. You saw it for a hundred bucks. Great. Do your thing. That’s amazing. But why don’t you license that to a school, to an organization, for tens of thousands of dollars instead of a hundred bucks? That way you’re still, hey, if you only want to make 100,000 a year, that’s great, but you’re doing it off one or two yeses per year, not several hundred.

And I think if we can just shift that mindset and realize that the value of your knowledge is contextual. If you want to make more money, just change the context.

Jason Feifer: Super sharp. I just want to repeat it. Cause that was a great line, Terry. The value of your knowledge is contextual. I don’t know if that just popped out of your mouth right now, but I love that.

Terry Rice: I’ll pretend like it did.

Matt Gartland: Awesome. Well, fantastic conversation. I’m glad we really dug in to this topic. It’s not over. Like there’s so much follow on that we can probably even should have. We should do stuff in our community. So we’ll figure that out. But for today, I’m thrilled that we spend a healthy amount of time on it.

We ourselves are doing good work in this space, trying to help people largely with a very kind of common person in mind, you know, an independent entrepreneur or someone moving in that direction. So I always love to save a little bit of time here to have all of you kind of highlight one of the really important projects that you yourself, you know, are working on, you know, the good work.

Jason, let’s start with you this time. What’s the most important project you’re working on right now?

Jason Feifer: Oh, well you know, you never want to say one of your children are your favorite, but I will say that a thing that I’ve been obsessing over lately is newsletter growth. And the reason for that is because I’ve found that the most intimate responses to things that I produce come in response to newsletters. So, you know, if you post something on social media, you might get people DMing a line about how they liked it. But when I send out a newsletter, what I get back are paragraphs and paragraphs of somebody telling me… very intimate details of their life or their work and how the thing that I just shared was impactful.

And that tells me that this is an incredibly powerful medium that I need to take very, very seriously if I want to build the kind of relationship with my audience that I do. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about the newsletter and two things that have really mattered to me, interestingly, number one is you hear it all the time in entrepreneurship, and it really is so true, which is that systems create freedom.

So once I started to systematize the format of the newsletter, you write down to like how the format of the subject line is the subject of mine, my newsletter is called one thing better and every subject line now is the thing that, the thing that you want to fix, the thing that is broken, the thing that you’re trying to understand, whatever it is.

And the re that just came out of AB testing where those kinds of subject lines were always working. But then I realized that number one, it was a constant signal to people of what they like about my newsletter, which has now arrived in their inbox. And number two, it’s much easier to write. It just takes me less time.

The system has liberated me from spending more time on these stupid subject lines. So there’s that. And then there’s also thinking about how to reach people. I have really leaned into LinkedIn as a tool and have been posting with a CTA at the end of every post and it has worked really, really well. So I’m really excited about that because of the intimacy of the newsletter.

And so I’m excited to figure out more ways to grow.

Pat Flynn: Thanks, Jason. Before we move on, where can we all get the newsletter?

Jason Feifer: Oh, thanks, Pat. You can go to OneThingBetter.email. That is a web address. You can plug it into your browser. OneThingBetter.email.

Pat Flynn: One spelled out? One the number?

Jason Feifer: One spelled out. OneThingBetter.email.

Pat Flynn: Got it. Thank you.

Matt Gartland: Thank you. Perfect. All right, Pat, you next.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of irons in the fire, of course, and Matt, you know a lot of what’s going on at SPI, so maybe I’ll save something like that for you. But one thing that’s on the top of my mind, I’ve just recovered from an event that I just held in Anaheim, California for my Pokemon channel.

A lot of you might know that I have a, this sort of side thing going on in the Pokemon space. It’s growing quite quickly.

Jason Feifer: Pat, my, my eight year old loves it. I have to tell you.

Pat Flynn: Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you. We’ll have to get you to come out to Card Party round two, because card party round one was an absolute massive success.

It was 2500 people from around the world came in. We had some of the top brands in the collectible space there from heritage auctions to eBay was there, all the big creators, and we were able to sell hundreds of tickets to next year without even a date or location. Wow. So I guess that speaks highly to, you know, how much people really enjoyed it.

I think my, my best piece of feedback from the event was from parents who came because they went to bring their kids because their kids weren’t into Pokemon and they were just coming along to chaperone or whatever. And then by the end, I mean, they’re buying packs, they’re ripping them open, they’re enjoying it, they’re learning how to play the game, they’re spending money and just having a blast with their kid.

And now that they, as a family, have something that they can bond over and they’re already going to be coming to next year. This is several stories like that, which is amazing. And that’s the cool thing about Pokemon in particular. It’s cross generational and it’s, it’s just whether you like the video game or the card game or the series, there’s something in it for everybody.

And this was a demonstration of just how powerful community is and especially when you bring them together in person and how hungry we all were for it. I think, I think the community needed it more than they even knew. And I think a lot of communities and niches are like that as well. But when you step up to create the safe space for people to come in and be nerds together in your own version of what a nerd might be for your audience, great things can happen.

And there were a lot of amazing stories that were unplanned and things that happened that were cool and more opportunity than ever now. So just a, a nice reminder and lesson for, you know, bringing people together and, and the power of community today, even in a niche like Pokemon.

Matt Gartland: If you are still selling tickets despite no location and no date, where can people go to learn more and maybe even get a ticket?

Pat Flynn: We pre sold tickets to the people who were there for year one, and currently at the time of this recording, we don’t have tickets for sale yet because we don’t know the date and location.

However, Card.party is the website, and as soon as we know the location, we’ll definitely have that information up there. Thanks, Matt.

Matt Gartland: All right, Terry, how about you?

Terry Rice: This is not going to be as fun as Pokemon cards, just to level set everybody’s expectations.

Jason Feifer: But there’s very little that is.

Terry Rice: Agreed. This will sound selfish, but really the product I’m working on is myself.

And I’ll explain what I mean by that. I believe to be successful to anything, any kind of business, any kind of venture, there’s three things. Take the right actions. Use the right tool. Leverage the right mindset. Unfortunately, as educators and people in the media, we often overemphasize actions and tools and de emphasize mindset.

So I want to deploy more of that in my work and in my life and become an idealized version who I think a lot of my followers want to be. Even it comes down to mental and physical health. Like this past year, I actually lost 20 pounds just by changing some of my habits. And feeling pretty good right now.

Right. I’m also getting more into meditation and just being more mindful. So I want to lean more into that to help people just work on the inside, not the outside, because I look at some people on could be LinkedIn saying, Hey, here’s how you get more LinkedIn followers. I’m like, that’s great. But. That’s not my upper limit.

There are other things I can help people with in life that’ll make all that stuff easier or flow better. But if I don’t start focusing more on that, it’s like one of those, those deathbed confessions, like, Oh, I wish I’d done this. That’s what it is. So on my end, it’s exciting. It’s confusing. I don’t know where I’m going with it, but I know it’s intentional.

And that’s really is my zone of genius. And I’m just going along for the ride.

Matt Gartland: There’s nothing probably even more important than that. It starts, starts with you. And then I think of the, the classic advice or even instruction, like when you’re on an airplane, you know, in the, in the airbags or they fall, or they’re, they’re told that they might like you put on your airbag first before you help someone else.

Right. So glad you’re doing that. That’s really important and more power to you for it. For me, as Pat was hinting at, there’s, there’s a number of expansive things. I might save maybe one more round table cycle before we talk about some of the expansive stuff. The thing I’m excited to maybe highlight today, is a renewed intention and investment into our Pro community. We’ve been investing a ton as a lot of our SPI audience members knows into our All Access Pass. It’s phenomenal. And we’re sort of at a point where we can now redeploy additive attention and focus and investment into the Pro community.

That was actually our first community that launched almost three years ago exactly. And I’m thrilled to be doing more personally, creating more kind of business oriented courses and content, leading more of our programming. It’s a big part of my motivation for, you know, our purpose at SPI and just even the aspects of me being a smaller creator than all of you, but still having a lot of that drive myself and, and an ability to do so.

So I’m grateful for the team supporting me and wanting to continue to nurture and grow our Pro community. And maybe if there’s any, a little bit of a hint in a secret wink here, you know, that the partnership that we have with you guys, Terry and Jason is remarkable. It’s only in its early innings and we have some bigger stuff ahead that I’m thrilled about.

So, you know, that’s, that’s where I’m really excited to be putting more of my focus these days. It’s exciting stuff. Yeah. Well, let’s start to bring this in for landing. I love to do kind of the, the lightning round here at the end. So we’ll kick it around. Pat, I’ll start with you this time as a heads up.

Okay. So this is you know, the triple ones, right? So it’s your, your favorite read right now could be anything, a book, an article, your favorite tool right now. And we actually already hit the project. So really, I guess it’s the two last ones your, your number one read recommendation and your number one tool.

Pat Flynn: The number one read right now is 10x is Easier Than 2x. Definitely a great read. The idea being that if you’re trying to 2x something, it’s you’re just basically doing more of what you’re already doing, maybe more efficiently or putting more effort into it to get to two X, but to get to 10 X, you can’t do the same things.

You have to change your mindset. You have to do an approach things differently. And I love that. And so I definitely recommend that I’m in the middle of that right now. Shout out to Michael Stelzner, who was the one who recommended that to me from one of my mastermind groups. And as far as the tool is concerned, I’m, I’m honestly just having a lot of fun playing with Midjourney.

It is a AI art tool and I’m not doing anything with it other than just kind of just in awe with, with the technology and how quickly it’s progressing. There’s a lot of other AI tools that I’m looking into. I’m, I’m, I’m really like if I were to offer one that you can all use right now. I would, I would recommend Descript for editing and your audio.

It’s just like, it’s just like magic, right? You film your video or your podcast and it automatically transcribes it. And if you want to edit your video, you just remove those parts of your transcript and it automatically seems the video together for it’s like, it’s absolutely like magic. I’ve I’m working on a video right now for it, but Descript would be the tool that I’d recommend in addition to Midjourney right now for my recommendations.

Matt Gartland: All right. I’ll go next and then allow Terry, maybe you to follow Jason. You can close this down here. Range by David Epstein is my, my read just finished that and just kind of game changing. It discusses sort of the conundrum between specialization and generalization, you know, being a specialist versus a generalist and how in our increasingly like specialized world, there’s actually generalists that are getting gaining the advantage in, you know, in winning and finding outsize levels of success, Terry, even kind of thinking about like working on yourself to, to your earlier point, you know, in like mindset and, and finding ways, I think for a lot of, especially in the entrepreneurial community, yes, we’re trying to maybe specialize in a niche. That’s where, that’s where we’re applying our value, but ourselves as entrepreneurs, like we need a lot of range, especially when we’re operating independently, you know, across different business disciplines and skills and things that we should have some levels of proficiency in. So, and not just even in a business context, but it’s certainly even in a life context, you know, with, with relationships and other aspects, just remarkable book.

And then the tool that’s helping me trying to find the increased levels of calm and structure, and I’m already a structured person, is Sunsama. It’s like a task management app, but like I’ve tried so many, probably a lot of you guys have to, but it’s the first one that has really kind of clicked with me. It’s just like they have some like almost guided meditation, like interfaces to help you plan your day, help you plan your week, get into moments of just like focused work.

It’s really elegant. Seemingly pretty sticky with me. So Sunsama is the tool that I’m really liking right now. All right, Terry.

Terry Rice: All right. So the book that I’m reading right now is called The Coaching Habit, say less, ask more and change the way you lead forever. And the reason why I’m doing this is because as part of my evolution, I want to help other people evolve as well.

So instead of consulting, which I normally do, do this, do that, just give instructions, I want to help people pull the best out of themselves. Because I really do believe everything you need to be successful and fulfilled is within you. And if I can ask better questions, I can help you pull it out of you.

So it’s called The Coaching Habit. I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far, and I’m trying it out my interactions already. So that’s the book. The tool, Matt, it’s similar to yours is a tool called Breathe, which obviously sounds important, but essentially it just, it’s like a ball going up and down. And when it goes up, you inhale, when it goes down, you exhale.

But I can do that for like four minutes. And it’s a good way to reset if I have to get into some kind of creative or critical thinking. And when I grab my phone, I think to myself, look, you can play candy crush, or you can do some quick motivation or meditation. And luckily that meditation wins out a fair percent of the time.

So that’s the, that’s the tool. The results, this is all part of my vision. The result is deals that are closed by my team, meaning larger deals that I had no part in whatsoever. No one asked me a question. Nobody asked me permission. Nobody did nothing whatsoever. They just showed up and said, Hey, Terry, this person’s ready to work with you. So that’s how I know I have a good team, a good channel and can just exist while still generating revenues. So that’s the result that I look for.

Matt Gartland: I love that. And you just reminded me that I forgot about the result. That was the third one. So I flubbed that for, for Pat and myself here, but Jason, pick us up on that, bring us home and you can include the one result on your side if you have one.

Jason Feifer: Sure. So the read is a great newsletter that I have discovered. Though it doesn’t have, I think, a great name. The name is Ariyh which is spelled A R I Y H, which stands for academic research in your hands. If you want to find it, go to Ariyh.com. So here’s what it is. Every week, this guy, Thomas, takes a piece of marketing related academic research and then distills down the big takeaways. They are so fascinating and fun and simple and useful. So I’ll give you two that I pulled that were recent. So number one is that If you, they found that people, this is kind of applicable to right now. If people listen to audio messages with headphones, they are two times more likely to be persuaded by what they heard versus if they were listening on speakers.

So anyone who works in audio needs to figure out how to get people to listen on headphones. And then the second is that this study found that you should wait 10 days before asking someone for a review. They they studied people’s response rates to being asked, to being prompted to leave a review after a trip, and they found that asking one day after the trip reduced the number of reviews by 48 percent.

Asking five days after the trip reduced reviews by 43 percent. Asking nine days increased reviews by 6 percent. And asking 13 days increased reviews by 68 percent, which is interesting. But I think he looked at a whole bunch of different research and averaged out the best time to wait is 10 days. So anyway, I find that stuff totally fascinating.

Ariyh, great newsletter. And then my tool is going to be similar to Pat’s in that I am here to sing the praises of DALL E 2, which is another artificial intelligence image generator. I have been using it to produce the illustrations in my newsletter. So I always start the newsletter with a illustration that embodies the, the vibe of the problem that I’m describing in the newsletter.

And then later on, once I start getting to the solution that I’m describing in the newsletter, I include another DALL E 2 image that was generated. And what I found is, you know, going back to what I was talking about earlier about, say, systematizing things. I ask DALL E 2 to to do it in the same style each time.

So I always go to DALL E 2 two and I write one line drawing of a person that that’s always my start with the prompt. And then I’ll experiment one line drawing of a person that is really frustrated, is standing at an intersection and can’t decide which way to go, you know, whatever. And you gotta do it a whole bunch of times to get something that’s really good.

But in doing this, I have created a regular recognizable aesthetic for my newsletter using this tool where I can just infinitely generate ideas until I find one that I like. So systematizing that has been really exciting to me. The result, you know, I, I guess I would say going back to the newsletter, the thing that I’m really, really interested in and borderline obsessed with is looking at the subscriber acquisition source.

I I’m like constantly looking at that to see where people are coming from. The word direct drives me crazy. Cause I don’t know where people are actually coming from, but I find that to be a really great metric for did I build the right, right relationships with other newsletter writers? Did I do a good job on LinkedIn this week of prompting?

So seeing where people are coming from has become an obsession.

Matt Gartland: Those are really good obsessions. I have to start playing with these image iterators. I haven’t gotten into that side of all the AI tooling yet. So now I must, so a good place to maybe end some folks listening hopefully we’ll take on some of the reads or the tools, kind of give those, you know, a test drive of some sort.

And hopefully the whole conversation around, you know, the creator economy, middle class has left a lot of people, you know, with some new thoughts, some new critical thinking about, you know, their ventures. So as always, guys, this is a blast. It’s fun to do these. I’m always sad in these moments as well, because it’ll be three months until we do this again, but I look forward to it.

So get out of here, have a great day. And for everyone listening again, thanks for joining in and tuning in for this special episode.

Jason Feifer: Thanks. So fun.

Terry Rice: Thanks everybody.

Pat Flynn: All right, Matt, that was incredible. I love when we bring amazing minds together like this, we just have such interesting conversations. How’d it go for you?

Matt Gartland: I thought it was fantastic. I agree getting diverse opinions and really getting deeper into important conversations is, is more, more important I think than ever, right, in terms of the challenges entrepreneurs are facing and you know, the really big topic from today, just around the middle class idea of us as creators and entrepreneurs I don’t think has ever been more relevant, even though it’s been out there for a few years now. So I’m glad we really centered that up today.

Pat Flynn: For sure. And if you want all the resources and links to of course, shout out to Entrepreneur Magazine. Thank you for having us as a part of the network and Jason and Terry on that as well.

We just appreciate everybody who is here still listening. And if you wanted to go to get the links and resources, hit up SmartPassiveIncome.com/session712 again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session712. And this won’t be the last one. We’re going to do this again in the future. So make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already.

And I agree, Matt, I think having these other experts come in to almost be a part of the SPI community is really amazing. We’ll have to perhaps do more of that in the future.

Matt Gartland: We might have some stuff in the works, but yeah, thanks for listening into this one. More to come. Grateful you’re here and let us know if you have thoughts for future round table episodes.

Pat Flynn: Cheers. Thanks everybody.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is David Grabowski. Our series producer is Paul Grigoras, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.


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