We spend a lot of time on the podcast talking about how you can build a business by looking at the tools and passions and skills you have to work with and then finding the market within them that has the best potential for growth. What we don’t talk about enough is the courage it takes to overcome those feelings of not being good enough, or not being enough of an expert, or just not being enough, period. Our guests this week, Marc and Angel Chernoff, have been changing lives for almost a decade with their incredible blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life, creating a career for themselves in the process and self-publishing what became a New York Times bestseller.
The wildest part to me about Angel and Marc’s story is how they fell into what they do seemingly overnight. Their story starts from a place of personal tragedy, losing two people close to them back to back. Their blog started as a way for them simply to be accountable to each other as they worked through the complex issues that arose from their grief, along with the twists and turns that happen to you when you’re trying to navigate your careers, your relationship, and building a life together. What they didn’t know at first was how much their story would resonate with others, but once a few of their posts went viral they suddenly ended up with a huge audience eager for more.
We get into how Marc and Angel built their business by accident, with their audience literally asking for new ways to pay them for things like an ebook and coaching. More importantly, we talk about how they were able to overcome that feeling of imposter syndrome by understanding that they were really making an impact on their customers’ lives. As Marc says, “if you’re doing things in service of people and doing your due diligence of putting in the work, and serving well, there’s going to be a substantial percentage of the people, on your list in your community, that want to take the next step with you.”
There’s so much in this conversation with Angel and Marc, and I’m really excited to share it with you. We talk about how you can cultivate presence, focus on personal development, and so much more. I know I can’t wait to pick up Getting Back to Happy, and I’m so thankful to Marc and Angel for sharing this conversation with me. Enjoy!
[Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Marc Chernoff: When it comes to growth personally and professionally, discomfort is really the key to the growth that you ultimately want for yourself. So do something every single day that challenges you, or scares you, just a little bit, right? You know, you don’t have to go crazy, but . . .
Pat Flynn: You’re listening to Marc Chernoff, who is here with his wife, Angel, and they’re going to be talking about some of the biggest discomforts that they’ve had in their life that have helped push them forward into a very successful business, helping hundreds of thousands of people. You’re going to learn about how they got started in business and kind of accidentally fell into this business, how long it took for them to monetize, what they monetized with, it is actually a lot simpler than you might think. You’re going to discover how they dealt with the imposter syndrome having accidentally fell into their business. They didn’t often feel qualified to teach their audience the things that they were teaching on their website. And then, finally, you’re going to learn about some of the very simple strategies and tactics that they use to make sure they stay in tune with their audience and how they continue to pump out article after article, that goes viral and viral. So make sure you stick around. This is Marc and Angel, for Marc with a C, marcandangel.com. But first, intro music now.
Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he likes coffee almost as much as he loves his podcast, Pat Flynn.
Pat: What’s up everybody? Thank you so much for joining me in Session 370 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thank you for joining me today. My name is Pat Flynn, I’m here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people, too. And today we have Marc and Angel Chernoff. You can find them at, marcandangel.com. They throw live events, they have a New York Times bestselling book, another one on the way. And more importantly, they’re just awesome people. They’ve been friends of mine who used to live in San Diego with me back when I was starting out my entrepreneurial journey. It’s just been really amazing and inspiring to see, not just the kind of business that they’ve been able to create, but, more importantly, how many people and how many lives they’ve been able to affect in such a positive way. So I’m very excited to introduce my good friends, Marc and Angel. Marc and Angel, thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with us here on the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Finally, you’re both on. Just, welcome.
Angel Chernoff: Yes, thank you so much. We’re glad to be here.
Marc: Yes, thank you Pat.
Pat: Now, for those of you listening, Marc and Angel were two people who I met very early on in my journey of online business and entrepreneurship. They used to live in San Diego, and I met them before they had their kid, and as they were also starting their business. And then I also had the pleasure of speaking at their event recently, and we’ll lead into all that and give people all the links and stuff later. But I want to go back to even before we met and how you guys got into what you do. I know that you had a very successful website and you were helping a lot of people related to just life and inspiration and happiness and guidance and direction in general. But, Angel, let me start with you. How did all of this start? Like, tell me how you built all this. What’s the origin story?
Angel: Yeah. It was one of those things where we were accidental entrepreneurs. It was never intended to be a business. We run a personal development site, and it all started from our need to do research into this work because we were going through our own troubles and adversities.
Marc: Yeah. We ran into a situation when we were in our late twenties. A situation that blindsided us. We, at that time in our life, we were not well versed in personal development, right? Not at all, because it wasn’t a need. Things were going fairly well. We had gone to college, we got the degrees, we got out, things were going good, reasonably well, though of course there were ups and downs. We got married in our mid-twenties. And then we ran across a season of our lives that involved the back to back loss of two loved ones. So, our best friend Josh, who was one of our closest, closest people, I mean, this is a human being who we’d share stories with. We actually aspired—Angel and I would look up to Josh and his wife Cammie, as kind of the relationship we wanted to model our relationship after. So they were incredibly important human beings in our lives, and he ended up passing away from cardiac arrest, but it was driven by an asthma attack, when he was away on a business trip, leaving a lot of questions. We had never dealt with a loss of someone that age, someone who was close to us. I mean, certainly grandparents we had dealt with, but a person that you just kind of expect is going to be there for the duration of your life. And as we were a couple of weeks into coping with that, Angel’s older brother died by suicide.
And so this was . . . it was kind of this one-two punch that forced us, like Angel said, to start reevaluating what was important, and what we could possibly do to step through the grief we were feeling. And, I’ll tell you, in the beginning, it was denial. It was bypassing the way we felt. It was actually having arguments, rather than having logical and comforting conversations with one another. We were living under one roof, and yet we were at odds with each other because we were really denying how deep the pain was. Of course, this is all happening in the downturn of the economy too, so we’re struggling. And Angel’s out of work first, then I’m out of work, and I’m in between jobs. And so you have this whole dynamic of trying to cope with loss that you’ve never felt before, and trying to figure out yourself financially. You’re a new newly married couple, so the walls started crashing down. And the blog was born, literally, as an accountability journal to the things that we were learning. We saw a couple of psychologists, each one of us individually, and they said, “Half of getting through this is going to be your willingness to step through it, to do the research, to do the work right on yourself as individuals and then come together as a couple.”
And so the blog was really . . . when it became what it is today, the infancy of it was us using it as a platform, to simply be an accountability journal where we were going to say, “Okay, we’ve learned, we know we need to do these things for ourselves and each other. We’re going to put our story out there. We’re going to put some of these tools that we’re learning from the likes of Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, so on and so forth, the reading we were doing, and just hold ourselves publicly accountable to that.” This was, call it good luck or whatever, it was a while ago, so we’re talking about over a decade ago now. This is around the time, Twitter and Facebook and social media’s taking off in more of its modern form. So it started getting picked up. Friends and family, a few shared it, and more people started reading, and it’s a long journey between then and now, but that was the infancy, that was the beginning, that was kind of the first few steps.
Pat: So it came as a need for you to just have a platform to share these things you were learning? Angel, what kind of things were you posting here and was it difficult for you to post related to something very personal and close to you?
Angel: Yeah, absolutely. We were just taking books and digesting these books, and then taking the highlights and writing about them, so they could be at the top of our mind. So we were digesting what we’re learning and then kind of putting it in our own words, and what are some things that we wanted to hold ourselves accountable to? Like, how did we want to step through this? What did we need to continue to read again and again to help us?
Marc: Yeah. And it was the daily reminders, too, which we found so vastly important, the little things. Things like, “Hey, everything that happens to you in your life is not your responsibility, but it is your responsibility to change the way you respond to those circumstances. That is ultimately going to move you forward.” And it was by writing that down and wrapping our story around it and putting it out there, it was certainly a vehicle for healing, and then it became a vehicle for others, as well, as they found it. And they’d send us messages saying, “Oh my God, I really resonate with your story. Let me tell you my story. What do you think I should do?” And it was wild to be put in that position, especially when we were kind of in the trenches ourselves.
Pat: So what was going through your head, Marc, as you were receiving these messages from other people when, really, the website was initially built just for both of you?
Marc: Well, I’ll tell you what, in the beginning, we were glad to not feel alone. Other people reached out to us, other couples reached out to us, and said, “We’re going through something similar,” and they would share their story with us. And there was a tremendous amount of . . . just, comfort in knowing that you were not on this journey, going solo. You definitely have people out there who are on the path with you. And so we, from that outreach that people, and then the outpouring of support that we were getting online, we decided, “You know what? Let’s transition some of the blog as well. Instead of just writing always about our story let’s write about some of their stories as well, and some of the things that they’re going through, and some of the things that they say are helping them.” And so it became very much of a collaboration between us and those people that we called our support group. And that’s really what it was, it was an online support group.
Angel: Yeah. But at the same time, initially, we were like, “Who are we to be giving other people advice? Who are we? We’re struggling and working our way through this too.” But the more we were doing research, we were realizing that we had learned some things along the way that we could help others. And so we were just explaining what we had learned, and working through it that way. But definitely, at first, we had that imposter syndrome with like, who are we to be helping others? We’re going through this with everyone else.
Marc: And certainly people were coming to us asking questions that we didn’t have the answers to. There’s some of that too. I think anytime you put yourself out there, and your story out there, people are going to resonate with it and they get this perception like, well, you have all the answers, but we didn’t. But what we did have was the time, space, and presence to listen to others. To share a safe place with them where they can say, “You know what? I’m hurting too, and it’s okay. And we can get through this together.” And so that was really the beginnings of where the blog started to take a little bit more of the modern day forum, which was a platform to help people step through very difficult circumstances.
Pat: How long . . . Angel, what was the publishing frequency? Was that, correct me if I’m wrong, was that a daily thing to start with? And then at what point did you start to feel like this could be something more than just a blog, like we can actually make this our business?
Angel: Mhmm. So initially we were posting every three to four days a week.
Angel: And as we were posting, we started to get comments like, “Okay, can you guys help me through this? Do you do coaching?” And then we had a couple articles go viral. And again, this is, like Marc said, this is back when you shared an article on Facebook and it would go nuts. We had one article that got shared six hundred thousand times in one day.
Angel: Yeah. Crazy.
Pat: Wait, what was that article? Do you remember?
Marc: That one was, “30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself.” And then there was a followup, “30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself,” which was kind of the positive spin of it. But those two together, it went just bonkers.
Angel: Yeah. And so, that article went viral. It went nuts. And Marc and I looked at each other and we were like, “Wow!” And so we kind of . . . and at that point, we were both working full-time doing our own nine to five jobs, working. Because this was all just a passion project. The blog was just something we were doing on the side for ourselves that was gaining traction. And so, when we had those couple of articles go viral, we looked at each other and we’re like, “Okay, I think this is decision time.” We can see that there is a need out there and we’re able to fill that. But if we want to continue with this, we’re doing as much as we can right now while working full-time, but if we want to take this a step forward, one of us needs to quit our jobs to then continue to pursue it.
Marc: Yeah. We couldn’t serve the people that were reaching out to us in the way we wanted to, without stepping out of full-time work. You only have so many hours in a day. So, it was a tough decision because it was . . . what’s interesting, most interesting, Pat, about this point is that . . . Angel mentioned imposter syndrome, and I think that’s a lot of what we were dealing with. There was this interesting dynamic of, we love this passion project that we have on the side, and it’s serving us, and it’s serving others. And we know, to serve them in the way they’re asking to be served, we need more time to do this. But at the same time, we felt like right now it’s all free. Right now, we don’t have to rely on it for our income. And there was something about that right there that certainly held us back for a little while. Like, “Should we charge for our time and our services to these individuals who are struggling?” And so it took a little while. We definitely danced around that. But ultimately we decided that the value we could create by doing so was certainly in service of them. And so, over the course of months we slowly stepped out into it.
Pat: So there were some thoughts of, “Wow,” like, “Okay, we’re helping these people who are going through these troubled times. Would it be weird for us, or just not right to start charging in some way if we wanted to coach these people?” And I can definitely see that. And that speaks to, wholeheartedly, the kind of people you are. And I’ve known you guys for years, you guys are always thinking about serving others first—which is what we talk about here on SPI all the time—and just the fact that you were having that thought, shows that you’re good kind-hearted people. But, tell me about discussions you had about that. I’m very interested because I know a lot of people who are listening to this right now are going through similar thoughts of, “Who am I to share this stuff and even start charging people for it?” It’s almost like how bands think of other bands that go big as like selling out. Like it’s just, you don’t do that. You don’t . . . and it can be misconstrued as taking advantage of those people. What were those conversations like, and how did you eventually unlock the ability to start doing that?
Marc: Well, the in-person conversations were really helpful. We started this, it was kind of this online support group where we would literally do coaching calls with people for free. There was no money exchanged there. And then have these online collective group chats where you’d have roughly ten people in a little chat room, but it was fully live and people were kind of putting their stories and their hearts out there. And I think the breakthroughs that we saw, by just sitting there and serving those people, over the course of weeks, was enough to motivate you to say, “You know what? If we dedicate more time to this, we can really help these people and more people.” And so that was a little bit of it. It was like, it was getting beyond, it was taking action, right? Like, we waste our time waiting for that ideal path to appear, but ideal paths are made by walking, not waiting. And so we needed to step into it. And so we did it a little bit inadvertently, I’m not going to say we made a really great conscious business decision to like, let’s just test the waters, but we were already knee deep in what we were doing. And so we just stepped a little further, took it off like just the written word and into a little bit more interactive coaching and support group style environment, which gave us, I think it just gave us the awareness that this was something special.
Angel: And then we also had requests from our readers like, “Do you offer this service? Do you guys have a book? Do you do coaching?” And so we could see that there is a demand there. And so it was just like, “Okay, how do we fulfill this in a way that feels comfortable for us and also provide service for others.”
Pat: How long, Angel, after starting the website was this point where you started getting requests from your audience for additional help?
Angel: I would say about 2012.
Marc: Yeah. So, was that three years, four years into it?
Pat: Okay, thank you.
Marc: So it took a few years to have people who were paying attention long enough to say, “Hey, we want this, we want that.” But yeah, to Angel’s point, my goodness, I think everything we offered first, Pat, was all based on requests. People were like . . . so our first book, which we had self-published, was a compilation of our greatest hits of articles. And people said, “Oh, I love everything that you send out, but if I could have it in one PDF, or if there’s one place where I could have it offline, that would be great for traveling and so forth.” Again, this is ten years ago. So, “I’d love to have it offline.” So we’re like, “Okay, we’ll do that.”
Angel: “I don’t want to just have it online, I want to read your material offline. Do you have that available?” And we’re like, “Well, no, but we could probably make that happen.” And so that’s how, then, our products started being born with just listening to our readers.
Marc: And then they said, “Oh, I’d love this in audio, I’d love to listen to this.” And we said, “What do we do?” We created an audiobook, and that eventually became a paperback. Because people were like, “Oh, this would be great to hold.” And we’re like, “That’s a good idea.” But yeah, we very much listened. And then the coaching was the same thing. It was, we were listening to what people needed and what they wanted, and eventually, we stepped from the free online text-based coaching, into voice coaching into, full-fledged Skype, Zoom-style conversations today.
Pat: And you do events as well, which is really amazing. And just to kind of see this journey and where it’s taking you, the reason why I asked you how long it took is because I want to give people a realistic take on just how much effort and time you’ve put into building that authority. And I think that’s when you start to get people to ask you for services and other things is when people can trust you. And that trust doesn’t happen overnight. And I think, just putting in the time to actually care about others and listen, is really the most important thing.
Pat: That first book, what was it called, and how did you know how to put it together? Or did you get help for that PDF file, initially? Marc, we’ll start with you.
Marc: We had no idea how to put it together.
Pat: And so where did you start?
Marc: Angel was, this was the greatest thing is . . . I remember, vividly, going into our home office at one point, and Angel’s got all of these articles just pasted into a giant word document. And I’m like, “All right, I feel like we’re making progress here.”
Angel: And so yeah. So, like Marc said, we had requests from readers saying, “Hey, where can I get your material offline? I want to be able to read this stuff on the subway, on the train, on the airplane.” And so I, literally, just went into our blog and found the top articles, the articles that had the most comments or the most shares, the most social media shares, and I started organizing them that way. But I had no idea what I was doing. So that was step one. I was like, “Okay, let me just take the articles. What do we have here?” And we actually had a reader reach out to us around that time and she’s like . . . she was a designer, and she was like, “I love your work, I’d love to be of service for you.” And she actually lived in Singapore. And so she ended up being the one who helped me create this PDF file, and lay it out, and make it look pretty, and do all the design features. And we would talk via Google Talk in the morning, because with the time change, it’s so drastic. And even with her accent, it was hard to communicate over the phone but it was perfectly fine over Google Talk. And so yeah, she actually helped me out tremendously, putting together this PDF file, and that became our book. The name was, 1000+ Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.
[Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Marc: And we self-published it originally as an ebook. Then we did an audiobook version, and we did a paperback version. And this is a big book. It’s got to be about four hundred pages. So it was substantial. I don’t know how many words that is, but it’s got to be, I would go with a hundred and twenty-five thousand words.
Pat: Wow, yeah.
Marc: Yeah, it’s a big book, for sure. But what’s wild is that we ultimately ended up selling the majority of the copies we sold and we sold all of them, for the most part, ourselves. It was on Amazon, but we did a lot of sales just through our own point-of-sale system. But we never sold it below twenty-seven bucks per book. But the vast majority was a combination of audiobook and ebook. That thing sold like pretty wild. And to give you an idea, I think we ended up selling the book, just recently in the last couple of years, to Penguin Random House. But before we did that and cut it off, we were at thirty-seven thousand copies at twenty-seven dollars.
Angel: Over the course of five years.
Marc: Over the course of five years, for sure, but selling it just ourselves. So it became a very good source of revenue for us and one that our readers absolutely loved. So it was a total win-win and it ultimately led to a book deal with Penguin. They noticed, they saw the numbers, and so they were, like, excited for us to write a new book for them if they could acquire this old book, which was absolutely wild.
Pat: And then that new book is Getting Back to Happy. Is that correct?
Marc: That is, yeah. That’s right. And Getting Back to Happy blew our minds when it became a New York Times bestseller. That was absolutely a wild ride, but born, again, out of just this mindset of listening to what the people we were serving needed, and wanted, one step at a time, over the course of, like Angel said, of years. It wasn’t selling it all at once, it was just like, “How do we start moving this snowball slowly, one step at a time?”
Pat: I love that. Congratulations to you both, especially on the new book, and the book deals, and the New York Times bestseller. I saw it there on the rankings when you were all sharing it, and I was just so happy for you both because we’ve been friends for a very long time. I want to go back to the first PDF file. So you have this Word document, and an amazing person in your audience comes out and supports you to design it. How did you sell it and what was it like to sell it? I remember . . . and a lot of people who have heard me talk about my story of when I first sold my ebook, which was literally the same thing, a PDF file, and what that experience was like. I’m curious to know if you could tell us the story, Angel, of kind of what it was like to put that online, and perhaps the tool that you used for that? And then just walk us through the first sale and what that felt like.
Angel: So we were very nervous about putting it out into the world. This was one of our first products, this ebook that we had created. And I remember it was right around Christmas time, it was the week after Christmas, but before New Years, and . . . of course we were, you could constantly make improvements or do something better and we were nit-picking every single thing. And we were arguing with each other, we were like, “We just have to get this out there. Like we need to stop trying to make it perfect because we’re always going to find something that needs improvement.” And so we were bickering with each other, and we stayed up late one night, and we were like, “We just need to get this out there. Let’s just put it on the website, put the landing page up, we don’t even have to send an email out yet or anything, let’s just get it all up on the website.”
Marc: So just like, if someone comes to the blog, at least they can see it. We’ll worry about the emails tomorrow.
Angel: Yeah. And so we used Ontraport. We used that to go ahead and do the payment processing, the email delivery, and everything. And so I remember, it was late, it was probably like 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM at night. We finally go ahead and get the landing page up there, and publish it, and make it live, and I am not kidding you, within ten minutes, we had a sale. And I go to Marc, I’m like, “Were you testing that? Because something just came through right now.” I’m like, “Are you still testing it?” And he’s like, “No, I’m not testing it.” And I opened it up and sure enough, it was a reader’s name, email address, delivery and everything. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I cannot believe this.”
Marc: We jumped out of our chairs, right? That definitely happened.
Angel: We were just blown away because we were doing it late at night. No one’s on the site, because, God forbid, something happens, we’re changing things around right now. And so we wanted to do it late at night, we finally get the courage to put it out there. And here I am thinking he’s testing something like he just did an order to make sure all the emails go out. And I was blown away that that first one went through. It was so exciting. Yeah, it was just amazing.
Marc: Yeah, it’s an amazing feeling, especially when it’s taken a few years to get to that point. I think the glory of that first sale and realizing that you’re starting to make that transition into business, it feels that much better. And then, of course, we sent out the emails. I think it was the next day, right?
Marc: It was the next afternoon, it took us a while to figure out just to have the right words, but we got that email out there, and then it did very, very well.
Pat: How big was your email list at the time, Marc?
Marc: Oh, goodness. That is a good question, Pat.
Pat: Ballpark, maybe?
Marc: I would say, ballpark, it had to have been like forty thousand. Does that sound right to you?
Angel: Yeah, that sounds about right.
Marc: Forty to fifty thousand probably. So it wasn’t small, it wasn’t massive, but it was . . . again, it had been up for, at that point it was three years that we were like probably consciously collecting email addresses, so I think that that sounds about right. Maybe it’s forty to fifty thousand sounds about right. And again, it wasn’t like we had a lead in or anything like that, we weren’t offering anything if they signed up.
Angel: Yeah. At this time we had never offered anything for sale. Like we had never offered anything. So I think this was also a big deal for our readers to be like, “Oh wait, they’re selling something? I like their work. What are they selling? I’ve never seen them offer any product before.” So here we were nervous about charging money and offering a product when they’ve been wanting this. They’ve been wanting something to buy from us because they look at us as, authorities, we have content that they love to read and finally they have a product. And so the feedback was a lot better than we expected.
Marc: Yeah. And I think a good reminder there, I think for any creator is that, if you’re doing things in service of people and doing your due diligence of putting in the work, and serving well, there’s going to be a substantial percentage of the people, on your list in your community, that want to take the next step with you. We just didn’t realize it. It took us probably a lot longer than average, especially at that point, to realize that and yet, I think it was okay to take a while. But for those who want to accelerate, I think you can probably offer something a lot sooner than three years in, but you still want to put the work in, and you certainly want to be doing it for the right reasons.
Pat: Angel, did you hear from anybody that was not okay with you selling after having given everything away for free for so long?
Angel: No. I don’t recall ever receiving an email of someone complaining that, oh, now we’re offering a product. Because we were still providing that free content. We still had the weekly blogs going out, the weekly articles. So that was still getting updated. This was just if you wanted to take it a step further if you wanted to have the material offline. So, no. We never really had any feedback of people complaining that now we were charging for our products because we still had that free content available.
Pat: That’s the perfect answer because . . . and that’s typically what I tell people when they go, “Well, aren’t people going to be upset?” But, you’ve just said it yourself. You’re not taking anything away from everything that you are already doing.
Pat: That’s where you get in trouble is if you were giving away things for free, and then you weren’t anymore and you now start charging for it, that’s when it starts to become an issue. But, you were adding this on top of what you were doing. So I want everybody to listen to what Angel just said there. It’s really important because that hangs a lot of people up.
Marc: Yeah. It’s interesting. We think that having something for sale somehow makes us bad, but no, that makes us a business. We have to serve ourselves as well. So if you can do so, I agree a hundred percent, Pat. I think our model is probably more similar to yours than we even realize. We, even now, we continuously, we get one to two new articles out every week. It’s completely free. If somebody wants to attend a live event, if somebody wants to buy a book, if somebody wants to buy our course or coaching or so forth, they can. But if they don’t and they’re on our email list, they are still getting two free pieces of content every week and it’s good. It comes from the heart. These are stories about ourselves, about coaching clients, and situations that we’ve gone through, or have helped others through. And there’s a lot. We write about them because we’re learning, ourselves, from them. So there’s a lot of value there. And I know you do very much the same thing, you serve your community openly. And if somebody wants to take the next step and show up to one of your events, or something like that, they have the option to do that, but they certainly don’t have to.
Pat: Thank you for that, Marc. Well said. I’m curious. I remember I was at your event and you were telling a story, Marc, about your grandmother and her journal; and you had shared a quote and something that she had written in there that really kind of set the tone of the entire event. And it was a very amazing event. I even for the brief time that I was there speaking, and then kind of beforehand during soundcheck and even during lunch, I met some amazing people. You attract some amazing people who want to better their lives and the lives of many others too. And I just want to commend you for that. But this journal entry that I’m thinking of, can you tell us what that was and why that is important to you, and just this journal in general?
Marc: Sure, absolutely. So a little bit of backstory on that is that when I . . . and I’m lucky to have had a grandmother who spent this kind of time with me, just having a guiding light in my life when I was young, teaching me lessons that I didn’t even know I was going to need a couple of decades later. But, my grandmother in the last couple of decades of her life, kept what she called her inspiration journal. And it was literally just a place where she’d jot down a few sentences a day about things she was learning. And some of those entries were truly amazing and she would share those entries with me. And we’d read through, we spent fifteen to twenty minutes when I’d see her, literally reading through her inspiration journal. And, when she passed away, she ended up leaving me this journal in her will, which was a remarkable gift, a priceless gift.
In one of those journal entries, which is the one that I brought up at the conference, is one that Angel and I actually have hanging downstairs in our office. It’s a journal entry about her going through cancer. She was diagnosed with cancer and she found herself sitting in a hospital room, and she had just had a double mastectomy, she was sixty-nine years old at the time. And this was a journal entry that was written in the—I believe it was the late 70s. And she has this observation while she’s sitting there in the hospital, somewhat, obviously, feeling sorry for herself. Feeling like, “Gosh, this is a tough moment in my life.” But as she’s sitting there, she realizes that she’s watching these rolling beds and these wheelchairs going by the hallway, and that all of the people being wheeled by with cancer, with bald heads and so forth, were all children. They were all, couldn’t have been a day older than seventeen. And in that moment, she realizes that she has everything to be grateful for. And that’s what she wrote, is that, “Despite this double mastectomy and despite the struggle that I’m going through, I’m a sixty-nine-year-old woman, in the last room before the pediatric division of this hospital begins. And I am sitting here witnessing people who are struggling a lot more than I am. And I have so much, in this moment, to be grateful for, for the life that I’ve lived to this point.”
And so it’s bittersweet. It’s sad, but at the same time, it’s perspective. That even when we’re struggling, even when it seems like we have nothing going well for us, we have a lot to look back on and to think about in our lives that’s great. There’s always some reason to be grateful because somebody nearby is struggling even harder than you are. And we have to keep that in perspective. And so yeah, I shared that at the event to set the tone. To say, “This is the mindset that we’d like to take into an event like this. A perspective shift that although yes, life can be hard, life can be difficult, it is not easy, we are all in this together and every one of us has something to be grateful for. And we have some reason to step forward.”
Pat: Thank you, Marc. Just what a wonderful gift for your grandmother to leave you, and all of us who are listening to this story. Her message and her soul lives on, as a result. And I just wanted to make sure that I pulled that out for everybody listening because it is a very memorable quote and something that we could all use more of a reminder about. So thank you for that, Marc.
Pat: Angel, I’m curious. On your website, marcandangel.com, “Hack Life,” as you say, you’ve written likely thousands of articles at this point and have a good knack on sort of what is most popular on your website. And I’d love for you to share with us perhaps some of those popular articles, and not just like why they’re popular, but also like just how are they useful for us. I’d love to know because you speak about, living life to the fullest and those kinds of things. I think a lot of us need these kinds of reminders. So based on your audience’s response to the kinds of content that you guys come out with, what are some lessons that we can all take away from you guys as experts, and who study, and research, and talk, and speak, and coach, about this stuff? What are some of the big lessons that we can take away from what you teach?
Angel: A lot of our articles we write in a way . . . one of the most common comments we get is, “I feel like you’re writing this just for me. I feel like somehow you’ve gone through my text messages or in my email and you know what’s going on in my life and you’re writing this exactly for me.” And so it’s a blessing to be able to get those responses. But yeah, a lot of the lessons that we talk about is we’re all going through some type of struggle. We’re all struggling in some way, whether it’s in a relationship or a career. And we talk a lot about being present and appreciating what you have right now, being grateful in this moment and kind of what Marc mentioned about his grandma’s journal, appreciating what you have now. Because looking back on the past, you can’t change that, you can’t control it. And looking forward, you can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future. This is the only moment that’s guaranteed. It’s right here and right now. So it’s being present with today and accepting what is while also being grateful for what you have.
Marc: Yeah. It’s appreciating the present moment without wishing it were any different. And dealing with the struggles that arise without fearing they will always be that way because they won’t. Everything changes. And then, like Angel said, appreciating the pleasures that arise on the average day without holding on too tight when they change. Because of course, again, everything changes. That is presence, right? That’s mindfulness. And we try to take that frame of mind into everything that we do. It’s a mindset that helped us when we were in the trenches but a lot of it is about questioning truth, Pat. To answer your question about what do we teach? It’s about realizing that the truth, the understandings we have about ourselves, our relationships and our situations, is not the whole truth.
A lot of times, we have built in beliefs and perceptions about what we are capable of, about what should or should not have happened to us, about the meaning of our lives. We kind of embrace these beliefs and they end up driving a big part of the actions we take on a daily basis. The things we do and do not do for ourselves and others. And so our biggest goal with the coaching clients, with events like Think Better, Live Better, is to get people to question their truth. Just take a long, hard look at some of the things that are cycling through their heads and ask themselves questions. Like, is this true? Is this all that is true? And who are you with this thought in your head? And who would you be if you could strip that thought out of your head? What else would you see about your circumstance or relationship or situation or life in general? What else would you see about yourself without that thought in your head? And maybe even like challenging them to say the complete opposite. Like if a thought is something like, “I’m not enough for these people,” say, “I am enough.” And, what are some examples in my life recently where I have been enough? Let’s challenge, let’s flip it around and challenge that. It’s really to break people away from this so-called truth that they’ve been living by that sometimes is holding us back in a way that we don’t even realize.
Angel: Yeah. It’s about looking at situations from a different perspective. We’re all guilty of getting that narrow vision. And I think, when our readers read our blog, they get those, a-ha moments like, “Oh okay, I knew that, but I forgot it because I’ve been so focused on this issue or this problem that I forgot to look at it that way.” And so reading the blog, it just opens their mind to a different perspective instead of having that tunnel vision.
Marc: It’s one of the reasons we share stories because I think the stories, the lessons from a personal development, self-help, and so forth, there’s a finite number of great principles. But when you hear those principals told through people’s stories, through different lenses, it can be incredibly powerful. And so that’s why we try our best to convey things that we’ve learned in our own lives and things that we’ve learned through other people’s stories; that make those realizations more powerful and also challenge our own perceptions of what’s going on in our own lives so that we can hopefully take a more positive step forward.
Pat: Thank you. And I love what you’ve just said there, I want to highlight that really quick and it’s the fact that there are likely just a finite amount of topics and categories you can speak on, and it’s the stories that allow you to continue to speak to people, to resonate with people in different ways, to continually talk about this. That was going to be my next question because a lot of niches benefit from . . . There’s a new phone that comes out every . . . however months. So now I have a new set of kinds of content and reviews and posts that I can create because that stuff is—technology is always changing. But when it comes to this, there’s only a finite amount of things that you could talk about. You have two hundred and five pages with five to ten blog posts each on your website about these kinds of topics. How are you able to find and, essentially, root these stories and turn them into lessons? I’m curious, having done it for so long. I know a lot of them have obviously come from yourself, but I’m reading some of the blog posts here on your homepage at Marc—with a C, by the way—andangel.com, you were talking about other people’s stories too.
Do you have a method for that? Because with me in podcasting I know stories are the most powerful thing that I can tell, which is why I always try to get stories from my guests. And in the blog, it’s the stories that get remembered that get talked about later. What are some strategies you guys have for getting these stories and finding them and then writing about them? And Angel, maybe we could start with you, and Marc, if you have anything to add.
Angel: Yeah. It’s funny you asked that. One of the ways that we stay in touch with our readers and know what stories are going to have more of an impact is really through our coaching. We’re doing coaching with our readers and we’re hearing their stories, and what they’re going through. And so, we ask their permission and we’re able to share their stories and say, “Okay, we just did a coaching call and this is what she was going through.” Because if this is a situation that our client is going through and has experienced, most likely others are also experiencing something similar.
Marc: Yeah, live interaction with human beings. That’s the reason, above all, to host a live event. For your business, a live event is not very profitable. There so many moving parts. When you think about the time and energy you put into it, it’s not like the best business decision, but it is the greatest people decision. You’re going to hear stories, you’re going to talk to people, and very much the same way Angel’s talking about coaching. And so, yeah. It’s putting ourselves in front of other human beings who are in the trenches and helping them and being a present, listening ear. And then hopefully not all of them, but a lot of them say, “Yeah, I don’t mind. If you change my name or change the circumstances slightly, I’d love for you to write about my circumstances.” And so it becomes a massive source of inspiration for new material, in writing the next story.
Angel: And it’s even . . . just our recent event that we hosted, we usually have about ten guest speakers that come and speak at our event. And the reason for that is exactly what you said, Pat, it’s that we all have a different story. So though the message all falls under thinking better, living better, perspective, acceptance, you’re hearing it from different voices. And so the audience members, the readers, the followers, they’re going to resonate with someone different than just one head up there, talking the whole time. And so that’s why we like to have all of these guest speakers. Because you never know who that audience member is going to connect with, and finally have that a-ha moment, and it’s really going to knock a point home.
Marc: Yeah. And we tend to reach out to people who we ourselves have learned something from. Pat, you are one of them this year. Like, somebody who has been a source of inspiration in our lives. And so we feel that if these human beings have been a source of inspiration to us and we have been a source of inspiration to those who are showing up to this event, then there is no question that these people who have inspired us are going to inspire them. Because they have a story to tell. But live events, coaching, this is how you keep the inspiration going. And putting yourself out there, attending other people’s conferences, and so on and so forth. I think you have to put yourself out into the world and live in order to be able to write stories about it.
Pat: Who else has inspired both of you for what you do today and how you live your life?
Marc: Oh man. Well, certainly you have to look to parents. You do have to look to parents and look at their ups and their downs, but you learn both sides of them. My parents have been a great source of inspiration in my life and I’ve learned . . . even in, Getting Back to Happy, I asked their permission to do it, but I wrote about their marriage struggles and how they overcame those marriage struggles. I look at people who are closest to me, and my parents are definitely two of those people.
Angel: Because we all, each and every single one of us, have a story to share and a lesson that we’ve learned along the way. So, definitely, the people closest to us have been an inspiration for sure. And it’s seeing and hearing more about their story and what they’ve learned along the way.
Marc: Yeah. I mean, Getting Back to Happy, for instance, Angel’s best friend, Janet, she has also had a double mastectomy in her thirties of breast cancer. So she’s been a massive source of inspiration for . . . again, we focused some of Getting Back to Happy, the book, on her story. But just watching her journey through that and change her mind about the meaning of life, and what is, and is not important. Seeing everything that we already know, but through her lens, it is incredibly powerful. So we do have this tendency to turn to those closest to us and to truly pay attention to those who are going through some type of life transition. But it would be a cliche to say, but at the same time, I’m going to bounce it right back to the clients. We spend a lot of time each week talking to individuals who are really struggling, who are so invested in themselves in stepping through the struggle they’re going through. So they’re not saying, “I’m stuck here.” They’re saying, “I know there’s hope and I’m going to get there, one day at a time.” Talking to those people is just miraculous. It’s just amazing. These are everyday people who are in the trenches, who are working hard to be their best selves for themselves and the people they love. And I don’t think there’s any greater source of inspiration than that. We can certainly talk about superstars, and celebrities, and stuff like that, but it’s really the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis. If you’re willing to pay attention, they can be the greatest source of inspiration.
Pat: I love it. Thank you. Angel, we’re going to finish up here and I want you to talk about what’s happening next for you guys. What do you have planned that we can all look forward to?
Angel: Yes. So our self-published book that we told you about the, 1000+ Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently, we are actually coming out with the traditionally-published version of that through Penguin Random House, and that comes out in May. And that is going to be a great giftable book, a tabletop book, a great source of inspiration. Penguin Random House has done a great job of cleaning it up, putting a new cover on it, we’ve added some new articles in there, and kind of making it the book that it could have been. Because when we self-published, we put our best effort into it, but to be able to have an editor and a team and everyone take a look at it and make it even better, we’re excited for that to come out in May.
Marc: Yeah. Definitely, it’s been fun. You know what’s really fun is, to go back and look at something that you read light or you wrote eight years ago and evaluate it. Right? You set it all right in front of you in black and white and go, “Okay, now you’re evaluating yourself, who you used to be here.” But it was a really fun process. So yeah, we’re excited about that.
Pat: That’s so cool. Do you know what date in May it comes out in?
Angel: It’s May 21st.
Pat: May 21st? And it’ll be available for pre-order most likely?
Angel: Absolutely, yes.
Pat: Okay. And so it should be there now. So you’re listening to this in May and so by the end of the month, make sure to pick that up on the 22nd, and we’ll make sure to just gain as much inspiration as we can from both of you because you guys are both incredibly inspirational. You’ve been inspirational to me, and it was just so great to be on your stage, and thank you for allowing me to be there, to share a lot of what I know with your audience and I cannot wait to see what comes next for both of you. Thank you for what you do. Marc, I’ll have you close it off. Any final words of inspiration for the listeners out there who are trying to live their fullest life and build something on the side, too?
Marc: I would say, challenge yourself every day. Discomfort is the way forward. That’s something—we often try to make things easier on ourselves but when it comes to business, when it comes to growth, personally and professionally, discomfort is really the key to the growth that you ultimately want for yourself. So do something every single day that challenges you or scares you just a little bit, right? You don’t have to go crazy but push yourself one step further than you did the day before, and you’ll be happy with the results in a few weeks.
Pat: You guys are amazing. Marc, Angel, thank you so much for coming on, marcandangel.com, Marc with a C, and I love you guys. We’ll talk soon. Keep up the good work.
Marc: Thank you so much, Pat. We’re truly grateful.
Angel: We’re looking forward to seeing you at, FlynnCon2.
Pat: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it’ll be Awesome.
Marc: We’ve got our tickets.
Angel: Yeah, we’ll be there.
Pat: Thank you, guys. Love you.
Angel: Love you too.
Pat: All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Marc and Angel. Again, you can find them at marcandangel.com, and come to the show notes page, smartpassiveincome.com/session370. For all the links and stuff about their upcoming book, we’ll have the link in the show notes and I’m just very proud of everything that they’ve done. Again, smartpassiveincome.com/session370. It just shows you that a lot of times the success that you see often comes with a lot of hardships, a lot of patience, a lot of time and care, for others. And it just doesn’t happen overnight. So, for those of you who are just starting out in your journey, don’t feel like you have to wait three years in order to see success, but just know that it does take time. And, like Marc said earlier, they could’ve probably monetized and helped more people in much better ways in addition to the ways that they were doing it for free, much sooner. So hopefully you’ve learned and have gotten inspiration from Marc and Angel. Make sure to check them out, marcandangel.com. And make sure you hit the show notes page so you can check out their book and everything else they have going on, smartpassiveincome.com/session370.
Make sure you hit that subscribe button on the show. If you haven’t already, it doesn’t matter where you’re listening at, if you could also leave a review for the show, that would be fantastic. And I just want to say I love you so much for coming on. I hope you got inspiration today. If you wanted to do me a quick one-up and favor, just share this episode with a friend, that’s all you have to do. However you want to do it, just let them know episode 370 of the podcast, that would mean the world to me. I appreciate you, Team Flynn. Let’s make it bigger. Team Flynn for the win. Let’s go.
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Special thanks to Marc and Angel Chernoff for joining me this week. Until next time!