Ep. 25 Hero Ep25 Eric Siu

Decoding Personal Power-Ups: Eric Siu on Wins in Business and Life

USING MENTAL GAMIFICATION TO ACHIEVE MORE

24 min

Ep. 25 Hero Ep25 Eric Siu

24 min

There's no shortage of advice about how to overcome adversity, both in business and in life, but Eric Siu has a unique take. A gamer at heart, he wrote "Leveling Up: How to Master the Game of Life" where he translates lessons from video games into "power-ups" that people can use to reframe and overcome obstacles. Hear Eric talk about pushing yourself to achieve more.

Read transcript

"It's really easy to compare your chapter one to someone else's chapter 25. I think there's a comparison game. We all play. It's just human psychology... So it's just easier to do you versus you one percent better every single day."

Quick takes on...

Failure as Fuel


"It doesn't feel good when people tell you that you're a failure, right? But I've learned to kind of enjoy that. So I know whatever I'm getting from people, that's fuel, because long-term, it's gonna make me stronger."


Being Persistent


"When I feel blocked, I'll try to brute force it. And I think it was Edison that said this, but it's not that someone is a genius, it's just that they stick with problems longer. Persistence is probably one of the biggest things. I think most people just end up giving up too easily… It's important to remember that all the great things that are built around you take time."


The Importance of Culture


"Everything starts from the top. I think people tend to emulate what the leader is doing. All the things I'd heard about culture in the past—which I used to think was a bunch of baloney—it all comes into play because culture, at the end of the day, is your operating system and it's how you do things. Your psychology ultimately cascades down to the entire team and they're going to behave like you."


 

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Meet your guest, Eric Siu

Co-Founder, ClickFlow

Spotlight Eric Siu

Eric Siu’s background spans the world of marketing. He is the co-founder of ClickFlow, an SEO experimentation tool, and he is the former CEO of Single Grain, a highly successful digital marketing agency. He frequently speaks at conferences around the world and helps companies like Uber and Amazon with their marketing. He is also the co-host of the Marketing School Podcast with Neil Patel, and host of the Growth Everywhere podcast.


He recently published a book called “Leveling Up: How To Master The Game of Life.”


Listen to the next episode

Ep. 26 Home Ep26 Aydin Mirzaee

Decoding Supermanagers: Aydin Mirzaee on Developing Great Leaders

DISCOVERING WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL MANAGER

29 min

What does it take to be a great manager? It’s a question Aydin Mirzaee has spent a lot of time thinking about. In addition to being the CEO of Fellow.app, he’s the host of the “Supermanagers” podcast. He’s talked to dozens of managers from leading companies about how to drive success. Hear him explain the traits that make good leaders great.

Episode transcript

Decoding Digital w/ Eric Siu

[0:00] [background music]

Eric Siu: [0:07] It's easy to compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 25. There's a comparison game. We all play it. It's human psychology. It's human programming. It becomes overwhelming when you compare yourself to someone else, so it's easier to do you versus you one percent better every single day.

Daniel Saks: [0:23] That's Eric Siu, Co Founder and CEO of ClickFlow, a content intelligence platform that helps companies optimize their SEO. Eric is a legend in the world of growth marketing. He bought his previous company, Single Grain, for two dollars and grew it into a multi million dollar marketing agency.

[0:42] Eric is also a prolific podcaster. He's the co host of the "Marketing School" podcast with Neil Patel and hosts the "Leveling Up" podcast, where he talks to entrepreneurs and marketers about ways to supercharge their business growth.

[0:56] In early 2021, Eric collected some of the most compelling ideas from the podcast and released a book called "Leveling Up How to Master The Game of Life." On today's episode, Eric shares some tips and tricks he talks about in the book and talks honestly about failure, success, and what it takes to grow a business from almost nothing.

[1:19] This is Daniel Saks, co CEO of AppDirect, and it's time to decode personal power ups. Welcome to "Decoding Digital", a podcast for innovators looking to thrive in the digital economy. I'm your host Daniel Saks, and I'll sit down with other founders, CEOs, and changemakers to decode the trends that are transforming the way we work. Let's decode. Eric, I'm thrilled to have you on the show today.

Eric: [1:54] Thanks for having me, Dan.

Daniel: [1:55] Certainly. I want to begin by talking about your new book, Leveling Up How to Master the Game of Life. In the book, you talk about 15 personal power ups that people can achieve to focus on their passions and develop a winning career.

[2:10] That leads me to my first question. I'm really curious. How did you come up with the 15 power ups, and what was your methodology around it?

Decoding Digital w/ Eric Siu

[0:00] [background music]

Eric Siu: [0:07] It's easy to compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 25. There's a comparison game. We all play it. It's human psychology. It's human programming. It becomes overwhelming when you compare yourself to someone else, so it's easier to do you versus you one percent better every single day.

Daniel Saks: [0:23] That's Eric Siu, Co Founder and CEO of ClickFlow, a content intelligence platform that helps companies optimize their SEO. Eric is a legend in the world of growth marketing. He bought his previous company, Single Grain, for two dollars and grew it into a multi million dollar marketing agency.

[0:42] Eric is also a prolific podcaster. He's the co host of the "Marketing School" podcast with Neil Patel and hosts the "Leveling Up" podcast, where he talks to entrepreneurs and marketers about ways to supercharge their business growth.

[0:56] In early 2021, Eric collected some of the most compelling ideas from the podcast and released a book called "Leveling Up How to Master The Game of Life." On today's episode, Eric shares some tips and tricks he talks about in the book and talks honestly about failure, success, and what it takes to grow a business from almost nothing.

[1:19] This is Daniel Saks, co CEO of AppDirect, and it's time to decode personal power ups. Welcome to "Decoding Digital", a podcast for innovators looking to thrive in the digital economy. I'm your host Daniel Saks, and I'll sit down with other founders, CEOs, and changemakers to decode the trends that are transforming the way we work. Let's decode. Eric, I'm thrilled to have you on the show today.

Eric: [1:54] Thanks for having me, Dan.

Daniel: [1:55] Certainly. I want to begin by talking about your new book, Leveling Up How to Master the Game of Life. In the book, you talk about 15 personal power ups that people can achieve to focus on their passions and develop a winning career.

[2:10] That leads me to my first question. I'm really curious. How did you come up with the 15 power ups, and what was your methodology around it?

Eric: [2:19] The 15 power ups, the whole concept behind the book is that life is just a game, and it's a lot easier when you see that it's just a series of puzzles to solve. The 15 power ups are just a starting point. Those are the ones that resonated the most with me. A power up, it could be a habit or it could be a mental model, usually a positive habit, right? That's a power up.

[2:39] You can have power downs like negative habits, too. I chose those 15. You might have 15 that resonate with you, but it's really just a starting point for people. The whole book is just a philosophy. 15 is the starting point, but there's thousands of power ups that you can go on and collect. You have to keep reinforcing some of them as well, or else, they start to decay.

Daniel: [2:58] What are some of the most powerful power ups for you personally?

Eric: [3:01] I have a chapter in the book called Thievery. I like that one most because there's cognitive dissonance for people. We all like to think that we're original. We hold that to be very sacred.

[3:11] Reality is, those people who listen to this podcast or those people that read books, we're all learning from each other. We're building on the shoulders of Titans. That's the cliché that you hear.

[3:20] I remember when I played a game called "EverQuest" when I was about 12 years old. It's kind of precursor to a game called "World of Warcraft" which is a very addictive MMORPG games. I won a championship. These are one on one battles with other people. On preliminaries, I got destroyed.

[3:35] These are one on one battles. I got lucky with the seating, the timing. I saw someone. They played a different way. I copied them and I made it my own. I destroyed everyone else. Before, I got swept in preliminaries. After that, I swept everyone else.

[3:48] At 12 years old, I was like, "Whoa. I think I need to learn from other people. Then, ethically steal." That's what we're doing all the time. If you look at SpaceX, is rockets, they come back to Earth. That's a big innovation. Fundamentally, the base design looks similar to the '50s and '60s, the rockets that you saw back then.

[4:05] We're all just iterating. We're building on top. There's a lot of pressure to have to come up with something original. When you have to think of something original, you end up overthinking. You end up not doing anything. That's why I love thievery.

Daniel: [4:17] Awesome. Can you list out some other power ups?

Eric: [4:21] Thievery is one. Another one would be the apprentice mentality. There's a whole lot that goes into thinking like a beginner. Also, understanding that there's always new information. Sure, you can hold your views firmly, but understand that if you're presented with new data, be open to changing on a dime.

[4:37] For me, I often try to be the dumbest person in the room or act like I'm stupid. That way, people will talk to me like I'm a five year old. I learned a lot that way. I'm open to changing my views all the time. That's another one.

[4:49] Another one would be endurance. Part of life, and even entrepreneurship or investing, is enduring. Who knows when the next crash is going to come? When the next crash comes, these people talk about having diamond hands and holding, like I have this Pokémon card over here that I paid two grand for. I'm going to hold this forever because I just enjoy the art.

[5:06] A lot of these concepts, these are philosophies. This shapes how I'm programmed. We're all programmed a different way. Those are three that come to mind.

Daniel: [5:14] You used the term standing on the shoulders of Titans. We have this concept of a digital hero which is someone, has a set of characteristics which are not dissimilar to your power ups. It could be tenacity, vision, foresight, perseverance. These digital heroes are people who can transform themselves, their businesses, and society in the digital economy.

[5:36] We're actually undertaking a academic study to look at and validate some of those characteristics. It's interesting, the similarity that you mentioned between the power ups and the digital hero characteristics. When you talk about shoulders of Titans, how would you define a Titan? I know you speak to many impressive people. Can you give me your personal purview as how you define a Titan?

Eric: [5:59] For me, it's anybody that's remarkable. Someone when you talk about, it's like, "Oh, man. That guy's impressive, right?" Or, that girl. One guy that comes to mind when I think about all the people I've interviewed on the "Leveling Up Podcast," one person I keep remembering is not necessarily the most successful entrepreneur.

[6:14] He's just a creator. His name is Ron Klein. He's known as the grandfather of possibilities. He created the magnetic credit card stripe that you have on the back of the cards. He created all these other inventions. When he got sick, he read the encyclopedia cover to cover. He participated in the senior Olympics. I think he won gold. He's really interesting.

[6:36] There's a lot I learned from him. What I learned from having conversations with him is he enjoys life. It's not about making the most money in the world. It's not about trying to destroy everyone. It's enjoying what you do and making the most of the journey. That's what it is. I'll have these pockets of conversations or pockets of wisdom that I get from people.

[6:54] Another example would be working with my coach. His name's Jerry Colonna. He coaches some of the most awesome SaaS CEOs in the world. The wisdom I get from him coaching all these other people, he stacked all that wisdom. Now, he knows how to ask me the best questions.

[7:08] Just yesterday, huge insight that I wouldn't have uncovered myself. He's standing on the shoulders of Titans. I'm benefiting from that wisdom. That's how I think about it.

Daniel: [7:16] That's interesting. There's like a multiplier effect there. One of the things that was interesting in the book, specifically when you were younger, your parents and peers mention that you are a failure. I thought, "Wow. Hey. That's super intense. I can't believe you're vulnerable enough to share that."

[7:31] Can you expand on that and share how you were able to turn your weaknesses into strengths?

Eric: [7:37] I keep referring back to programming again. This is how I rewired my brain. It doesn't feel good when people tell you that you're a failure right in the moment. I've learned to enjoy that. I know whatever I'm getting from people, that's fuel. Long term, it's going to make me stronger.

[7:51] I remember fourth grade, my dad wouldn't talk to me on my birthday because I didn't do well in division. I remember my dad would say things like, "You're so behind versus other people." My mom's like, "Look at this kid. Look at this kid. How come you can't be like this? How come you can't be like this?"

[8:04] After you hear it for such a long time, it's just over and over, how can I reframe this and actually make it positive? Just saying, "OK. It sucks in the moment, but I know it's going to be great." Now, in business you're going to hear people that talk crap about you. There's going to be competitors and all that. Now, it's all great. Now, whenever I get that, I'm like, "Give me more."

[8:21] If I start to sulk about, if I start to be sad about it, it's not helpful. That's how I deal with it. That's the reframe. A lot of life, again, I go back to programming, a lot of it's reprogramming, rewiring things. Then, you could think differently. I used to think it was a bunch of BS when people would say, "Oh. It's all about mindset." Then, you get a little older and you realize, "Oh, yeah. It is all about mindset."

Daniel: [8:44] Completely agree. Let's go back to the programming concept. Do you recall a memory, specifically when you were a child that your parents or someone specifically said you're a failure, you broke down and that was a low point? Is it more just consistent reinforcement?

Eric: [8:59] I don't think I ever broke down and cried, but it is very emotionally taxing. Even right now, I'm recalling those emotions and it does feel emotional. It sucks, right? Because I started playing games more, games started to teach me how to reframe everything. When I started playing games, I realized all the stuff I'm learning, teamwork, camaraderie, perseverance, finding the best team.

[9:20] The way I got recruited was very similar to how the start ups recruit. I'm like, "Wow. This is no different. Here's the reframe. This is no different than playing sports. Nobody sees it right now." Parents understand sports. You gain all those benefits too. The same thing with sports, if you over train, you might tear your ACL or blow a muscle up.

[9:37] If you over train in the world of gaming, the virtual world, or the shadow world, you can actually start to deteriorate mentally as well. Also, deteriorate physically.

Daniel: [9:46] It seems like you're a gamer and advocate of it. How do you balance the good side of it and the bad to your point?

Eric: [9:53] I can't play anymore because business is the ultimate game to me. Life is the ultimate game, but business is one of the best games, I think. Back in the day, what I would have told myself...I would fight with my parents all the time. People listening to this right now, they might be fighting with their kids because their kids want to play more games.

[10:10] Had I had an open dialogue with my parents, had they asked, "Hey, why do you like this so much? What are you getting out of it?" I think we would have had an open dialogue. We would have compromised.

[10:20] Like I mentioned earlier, you can overtrain in sports. As a parent, you just have to make sure the children, they aren't overtraining in the world of gaming, but also understanding that they might be getting certain benefits from it too. You can work together on it.

Daniel: [10:32] There's times in life when we all get stuck. I find when you play video games, you definitely have those situations where you're like for stuck. It's like a puzzle. You can't figure out or a boss you can't beat. When that happens, what's your advice for someone who might get stuck by using power ups?

Eric: [10:47] I remember a lot of scenarios where I'll be stuck. I used to just go on the Internet and ask people, or I'll just google a bunch of things and I'll find solutions. Basically, it's the same thing as running a business. If you're running a company, you're constantly iterating. You're making little tweaks.

[10:59] I'm making little tweaks. I'm getting more data, and then I make it little tweaks. I might screw up again, and I'll slowly course correct. The second part to being blocked is I'll try to brute force it. Maybe it's Einstein that said this. I'm paraphrasing right now because I forgot the exact quote. It's not that he's a genius. He just sticks with problems longer. It might be Edison actually.

[11:18] That's what it is. At 22, when I read "Think and Grow Rich," it's like, "Oh yeah, persistence is probably one of the biggest things." Most people just end up giving up too easily. What I find with building an audience with the podcast, after the first year, only nine downloads a day. After the second year, only 30 downloads a day. Now, cumulatively, we're at 1.6 million downloads a month.

[11:36] That just takes time to compound, two to three years. Same thing with business, I find the same thing, usually three years to get something going unless you hit lightning in a bottle the first year. Usually, if it's lightning in a bottle, majority of the time, it's easy come, easy go.

[11:51] It's a lot of understanding that, hey, all the great things that are built around, you take time to do. There's a wall, and you get to decide if you want to beat that level, beat the boss, to your point. You don't deserve to go to the next level until you beat the current one.

[12:04] It's fine if you don't want to go to the next level. You can stay there. That's what life is. It's just a series of levels.

Daniel: [12:09] I remember when I was just starting the business, watched the Facebook movie. There's this moment where like they click a button, and then users go to a million. It looks so easy. When we launched, we clicked the button, and there's nothing. Crickets.

Eric: [12:20] Nothing.

Daniel: [12:20] No one talks about that. How do you think you or others that are influencers can help get that out in the field?

Eric: [12:26] It's human nature. What tends to get headlines is...Controversial things get headlines, but also people want to talk about the big successes. Look at how much I raised on TechCrunch. That's like when you get the ingredients for cooking dinner. I think that's from a tweet.

[12:41] It's really easy to compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 25. There's a comparison game we all play. It's just human psychology. It's human programming. It becomes overwhelming when you compare yourself to someone else. It's just easier to do you versus you one percent better every single day and forget about all the headlines.

[12:57] If we think about what Charlie Munger says about incentives, all these big headlines that you're seeing, these people are writing these headlines because there's a formula that works. It's either a big success, or it's either a huge controversy. These will drive the clicks which will, in turn, drive the ad dollars.

[13:12] People need to think about how are all these businesses incentivized, how's everything set up in terms of structures. Then you start to understand, "Oh, OK. Maybe I'll just ignore all this stuff, and then I'll just worry about myself."

Daniel: [13:23] How would you define an incredible brand out there?

Eric: [13:28] To me, at the end of the day, a brand tells a story. When I think about Nike, the best athletes in the world wear Nikes. That's why I buy Nikes. Nike stands out to me. The big brands like the Apple stands out to me. GEICO stands out to me because you always remember. They keep it so simple,15 minutes. That keeps sticking with me over and over. It's the gecko, 15 minutes over and over.

[13:49] If I had to talk about a tech brand that I think is doing innovative stuff, I would go to HubSpot. They bought the Hustle, but now they're looking at acquisitions pretty hardcore. They've created a category for themselves with inbound marketing and are just very smart about how they do things. They've been very intentional. I would probably name them as a nice tech brand.

Daniel: [14:06] You mentioned some of the brands like a GEICO and others, obviously ACE brand, ACE TV ads. As they're trying to capture a new audience digitally, what strategies do they need to take to shift?

Eric: [14:18] Yeah, more people are talking about this now. Correct me if I'm wrong, but my sense is after. Pre COVID, you guys were doing events and things like that?

Daniel: [14:25] Oh, yeah.

Eric: [14:28] The big benefit of doing events or any type of peer groups, it's the community. If we talk about media, like owning a website, as a nice moat, community is even stronger than that. A community is where you have people that interact with each other. They're helping each other out.

[14:42] When you build an audience as me, or you talking to a bunch of people we're broadcasting, it's not as strong as having a group. People come back for that community. Let's think about SaaStr as an example, pre COVID, one of largest SaaS conferences, if not one of the biggest ones in the world. I go there every year, not for the speakers. I go there because I see the same people over and over.

[15:00] There's that type of lock in. When you have that type of lock in, it helps with retention at the end of the day. People keep talking about it. It's like, "Oh yeah, you know, I'll stay with it longer." More people talk about it. There's that brand affinity as well. I tried to think about, what can I build for the long term?

[15:15] You're doing this podcast right now. You're trying to build an audience for the long term, right? I used to come from the Internet marketing, affiliate marketing world before I started working in tech, so I understand both worlds.

[15:24] One world is focused on short term profits. The other one is like, how can I focus on making the product or the experience so good while being pretty good at acquisition? I like the tech market or perspective more. It was long term thinking

Daniel: [15:37] You mentioned a lot of the coaching that Jerry Colonna might be giving you or others. What lessons do you learn from just the art of being coached?

Eric: [15:46] I tend to talk fast. I have this turtle right next to me over here. I got this turtle when I was in Puerto Rico. One of the key things I got from coaching or working with him, we started looking at feedback from my leaders, as an example. Then you'd see the same feedback over and over.

[16:01] Then when we look at it, it's like, "Oh, it's hard to keep up with Eric. Sometimes he moves at his own pace. Blah, blah, blah." Then when we started talking about other scenarios going on in my life. It all came down to this whole thing around, "What is it saying, Eric? It says slow down."

[16:14] I've tried to talk slower. I try to work slower down. I don't have these crazy high expectations of everyone. That's just one example of coaching. This type of coaching is different because I've had coaches in the past where they tried to hold me accountable. I'm like, "I don't really need that that." Pretty good self starter.

[16:29] Jerry doesn't give me the answers. He asks me very specific questions. Example, yesterday, what we've realized was that a lot of my behavior comes from my childhood, talking about my mom and all that. My mom, she's the matriarch of the family. She's the breadwinner. At the same time, that also makes it very controlling.

[16:47] I was living under that a good chunk of my life. I'll do whatever it takes now in my life to not be controlled. That also means if I need to control someone else, like micromanage them, I don't like that too because I feel like I'm being controlled.

[17:00] If I'm going to work with any type of leader or, let's say like a life partner or anything like that, I don't want to feel controlled. I want to feel like I need to control you. That all came down from me talking about my childhood. Then, boom, everything ties in together.

[17:15] A lot of working with a guy like Jerry is rewiring a lot of the programming that I had or just untangling a lot of that. At the end of the day, we spend 18 to 22 years with our parents. There's a lot to work through there.

Daniel: [17:28] It's interesting because we started with the topic of power ups. We got pulled back into the cognitive and psychological parts. I find that when you're thinking about building a brand, and thinking about being bold, and thinking about your mission, a lot of it is just your psychology.

[17:41] I remember selling in the early days. If I believed that I was adding value and I would visualize the success for myself and for the client. I would be able to sell a much bigger deal size, and all it was was my psychology and confidence that we can deliver great things to this client. That would show up, and it would manifest the deal being done.

[17:58] I do find that individual psychology across an organization has a huge impact on if that organization can achieve its mission or not due to that confidence. Is that one of the insights that you have?

Eric: [18:09] Yeah. On the agency side, we just had a new sales leader start. He noticed immediately the entire organization is all self starters. Really, Dan, you're leading that direct. Everything starts from the top. People tend to emulate what the leader is doing.

[18:25] All the things I heard about culture in the past, which I used to think was a bunch of baloney when I was younger, it all comes into play. Culture at the end of the day is just your operating system, and it's how you do things.

[18:34] That all comes down to programming again. Your psychology ultimately cascades down to the entire team. Like it or not, they're going to behave like you. [laughs]

[18:42] By the way, the top CEOs in the world, there's only one thing they all obsess over. It's culture, at the end of the day. Communication is important, but that all ties into how you communicate the culture, over and over and over again. What we're talking about is pie in the sky, but it's what matters.

Daniel: [18:56] Got it. Well, last question, I want to test you live here. What would your headline be for this podcast?

Eric: [19:03] How to Think Long Term, I don't know. No, I'm just kidding. That's actually not a good headline. [laughs] That's what comes to mind first. I'd have to think about it. It takes us time to come up with good headlines. Sometimes it could be 5 to 10 minutes, so I wouldn't want to give you something half assed off the cuff. [laughs]

Daniel: [19:18] Got it, but give us insight as to how you would come about creating and crafting this headline. What are the debates? What are you testing? Are you googling things?

Eric: [19:25] Yeah, what I'd be looking for from this podcast specifically is, what is the key takeaway? There's got to be one key takeaway that's interesting. Let's say, we're going to have one guy on the podcast. He built a YouTube channel from zero to 3.2 million subscribers in five months. That's an interesting headline because it's time bound. The time is very short, and it's a remarkable result.

[19:50] I don't know what remarkable result I talked about here. It could be, "How I bought a company for two dollars and then almost tanked it. Then turned it around." It has to be something that's eye catching to get people to click.

Daniel: [20:02] Tell us about that story.

Eric: [20:04] This is that Single Grain, the agency. I would never do that again in hindsight. My podcast co host, he asked me if I wanted to come save this agency called Single Grain, which was at the time, a long time ago, was a SEO agency. I was like, "OK, no, why would I do that? I've worked in agency when I was much younger. It sucks. It doesn't scale as well. It's terrible."

[20:24] Then I reframed. I was like, "Oh, you know what though, if I'm able to turn it around, I could take the cash flows from the business and then take all this cash flows as my yearly angel investment and just go redeploy that cash or put it back into the business."

[20:37] I decided to join the company. I joined as a number two. I had 10 percent of the company. Six months into the job, before other partners wanted out, my co host Neil was like, "Hey, you should get out." He was also a partner. He's like, "There's no brand equity here. There's nothing. This is a failing company. It's a sinking ship."

[20:51] I was like, "Hey, why don't give it a shot? Why don't I pay you one dollar for 10 percent of your shares, and another dollar for another partners, so two dollars out of pocket and then the rest was seller finance." It was paid to the profits of the company. I put in a contingency that if the company failed, I would owe nothing.

[21:07] My thinking here long term, again, is asymmetric upside. My upside is unlimited if it works. The downside is I get an MBA very quickly. I was 26 or 27 at the time. I took over the company, and I made it go from bad to worse in the first year because we dropped all the way down to one employee.

[21:24] I read this book called "Let My People Go Surfing." It was from the Patagonia co founder. Great book, by the way, but I took it too literally. I was like, "Yeah, people don't want to be micromanaged. People don't want to be told what to do, blah, blah, so I stopped showing up to the office." People can figure out. You hired smart people.

[21:38] I'm like, "OK, I didn't realize the whole 'Trust, but verify' thing from Ronald Reagan. It's everything." That's what happened. My outside accounting firm called me and said, "Hey, it might be time to shut it down." That was probably my lowest point.

Daniel: [21:50] Then talk about how it got brought up again.

Eric: [21:52] [laughs] I like to failures more. That was the failure. Over the years, when we dropped all the way down to one employee, thankfully, the SEO work that I was putting into the website started to work. We're getting a lot of leads coming in, but we had nobody to fulfill it.

[22:04] I'd refer all the leads out to another agency, and we found out that they would do a good job with closing, but they couldn't retain. They're like, "OK, what's the next level above that?" Again, levels. Then we started hiring contractors. They do a better job of retention but still not that good. It's like, OK, let's level up. We have more resources now. Now, let's start to hire full time people again."

[22:21] We converted the agency to a paid media agency, mostly focused on technology companies. Now, we were getting all the leads the Ubers, the Amazons of the world and then we're actually closing them, and the company just kept wrapping and snowballing from there.

[22:34] The whole thesis played out. We still have the agency which drives great cash flows. We got the software, the events business, kind of the investment arm as well, like "All that stuff is built out, but if I were to do it again, I probably wouldn't do that. I'll just do it from scratch."

[22:46] [laughter]

Daniel: [22:48] That two dollars was returned too?

Eric: [22:51] Yeah. The two dollars was paid immediately, actually.

Daniel: [22:54] But you've done well with it?

Eric: [22:55] Yeah, that was probably the best bet of my life.

Daniel: [22:58] Incredible. Congrats. Eric, it's been awesome having you on the show, covering topics ranging from cognitive psychology to vulnerability, to gaming, and above all, to speak to how you level up. Thank you so much.

[23:11] [background music]

Eric: [23:11] This was fun. Thanks.

Daniel: [23:13] Cheers.

[23:13] [background music]

Daniel: [23:17] On the next episode of "Decoding Digital."

Aydin Mirzaee: [23:20] One of the things that we say often is great managers are not born. They're made. The good news is that it's never too late, and it's something that you can keep working on. With enough effort, enough repetition, you too can be a super manager.

Daniel: [23:37] CEO of Fellow.app and host of the "Supermanagers Podcast," Aydin Mirzaee. Thanks for listening to Decoding Digital. Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player. To learn more, visit decodingdigital.com. Until next time.

[24:00] [music]

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