There’s no one formula for success in entrepreneurship and family life, but there are some qualities that successful people in both areas share. In this episode, Justin Breen, the Founder and CEO of BrEpic Communications, reflects on what has changed since the pandemic two years ago and what top entrepreneurs in the world have in common. He also introduces his new book on how to succeed at home and professionally. With over 20 years of experience in the media business, Justin has won dozens of editing and writing awards and authored countless viral stories.
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What Global Thinking Entrepreneurs Think With Justin Breen
I’m speaking to Justin Breen. We spoke a couple of years ago as the pandemic was taking hold. This conversation gave us an opportunity to reflect back on what’s changed and what hasn’t changed since then. Also, we talk about his book that will be coming out in regards to the impact that he hopes to make on individuals and entrepreneurs being successful but also being successful at home. It is such a powerful and necessary combination as it relates to what would be the full package of a high-functioning entrepreneur. There are so many pearls in this. I truly think you’ll enjoy it. Let’s get into it.
Justin, I want to thank you again for being on the show. As you said right before we got in here, it’s been years since we had our first interview. How much would have changed if we had known at that first interview what was coming? It’s amazing. To have you back on as you get ready to launch your second book, I thought this would be a great time to come on and explore what the drive for the second book was and how it was shaped by the experiences of the last years.
This will be super interesting. Our first conversation was on May 9th, 2020, a couple of months after the lockdown. That was right before my first book came out. Now, we are summer of 2022, right before the second book is coming out. There’s so much that has become different in many ways because of COVID, but foundationally, a lot of things have stayed the same, which has created immense opportunities for those that have embraced those foundational things. I’m excited to talk about what has changed and what has stayed the same.
From your perspective, what do you think is the opportunity right now?
When COVID started, I posted on social media, “This will be the greatest opportunity of all time for folks with the right mindset.” Most of my day is spent talking to the world’s top entrepreneurs. I’m not talking about business owners, consultants, or employees. I’m talking about truly global thinking entrepreneurs. The last few years, almost without exception, have been the greatest years of those folks’ businesses, but more importantly, more time with family, building real relationships, not having to travel anywhere, and focusing on what matters in life.
It is an interesting thing listening to our last conversation. We were talking about what my first company was. It’s a global PR firm from what it actually was, and it was a giant network. My first company is called BrEpic. The second company is called BrEpic Network. All it is technology, a SaaS platform. We talked about LinkedIn as well as about people trying to sell things on LinkedIn. Our new company is LinkedIn without the BS. It’s an invite-only high price point connect.
I live in the Chicago area, my partner is in San Francisco, and the person who built this company and the platform is in Toronto, and we have met one time in person. We had a big launch party for it in Chicago. That’s one example of what has happened with the folks that I talked to. They create a new company and their companies have grown exponentially in a virtual world. It’s real relationships and partnerships in a virtual world. With that mindset, the right mindset creates those types of endless great opportunities.
From the standpoint of my business, going through a lot of my stuff was brick-and-mortar in terms of the workshops that I was doing and the companies I was working for, although my coaching was primarily virtual. It provided an opportunity for me at that time to take the workshops that I had done and create an online series out of them that I hadn’t done before.
That downtime provided me with the opportunity to do that. It’s provided me far more reach to be able to do that than I would have ever been able to do if I continued to do the brick-and-mortar, hiring people to come in and help me facilitate. It’s so much easier, but there was a point there of how am I going to navigate this? To your point, the opportunity is there for those people that look at this as an opportunity and not as the downfall.
I remember you talking during our first interview that your business had taken a hit. That was in-person things were. May of 2020 was difficult, if not impossible, to do in-person things. You did and realized what all these global entrepreneurs with the right mindset have done. Thinking and executing is that a tremendous opportunity for greater potential, reach, and purpose.
I’m very grateful to be part of the top entrepreneurial groups in the world. One is on a Strategic Coach 10X and the other one is Abundance360. Abundance360 is led by Peter Diamandis of XPRIZE. He is a great friend of Elon Musk. Dr. Diamandis wrote the foreword for my next book and I’m very grateful for that. In the Abundance360 group, what will happen is we had a meeting in the metaverse.
We were in a room with Star Trek ships flying around and Ray Kurzweil was speaking. He’s one of the top futurists in the world. I’m moving my little joystick around, so I met someone in the metaverse. It was in Abundance360, and we were talking about that. I sent him a LinkedIn request. It’s because I like LinkedIn, even though there are a lot of BSs there. We connected on LinkedIn, then I sent him a Calendly link to book a time, and then we met on Zoom. We met in the metaverse, connected on LinkedIn, sent him Calendly, and then had a real relationship in Zoom. That four-part thing.
People take those types of things for granted now, but if you think about it, it’s incredible what technology has allowed for. The new partnership company I have with people I have met one time in person and we have had this for years. It’s the global connectivity platform for people with the right mindset. It’s a giant who finder for the top people on the planet, and it’s amazing to be able to create something like that. That wouldn’t have been possible several years ago. It’s very easy to do something like that.
Along those lines, there was a book that I read called The Control Heuristic, and the book struck me. I found it very fascinating. It was about human nature. I looked at the author Luca Dellanna. I reached out to him on LinkedIn and we connected there. We have a Zoom call to meet in person. Again, along with similar things. He lives in Italy. The opportunities that are available to people who embrace what has happened are incredible. I appreciate your perspective on this because, as I have seen things, what has held people back the most is this environment of fear.
The top entrepreneurs in the world are usually aliens within their own family, vertical, and community. Nobody understands us except top entrepreneurs on the planet. In our last interview, I was like, “Maybe 1% or 2% of folks understand this type of thinking,” but it’s much less than that. It’s what has changed and but what has stayed the same.
I’ve quantified the folks in the firms that I have now. We partner with maybe 0.1% of the population. It’s not 1% or 2%, it’s 0.1% out of 1,000. It’s interesting because most people think that’s a small number, but I’m like, “You are not living in abundance because if there are 8 billion people, 0.1% of 8 billion is 8 million, so 8 million is a lot of people.” The 8 million are the ones that create things that employers benefit everyone else.
The 0.1% are the ones that don’t limit themselves to their own fear. They take action and do it. It’s fun partnering with those people. They do have fear, but they don’t use that as a preventer. They use it as an accelerant. It’s a big difference. That’s what I was excited to talk to you about during the two-year gap. This sums up what I’m talking about the 0.1%. In the first book, all it is are 30 things I learned from top people on the planet and then wrote about it.
The first chapter is The Cream Rises To The Top. That’s something my dad said every day, pretty much that I can remember from when he was alive. We didn’t talk about my family the last time. My father was 61 when I was born. He’d be 106 if he were alive. He was a World War II hero. He was shot down 8 or 9 times in combat. Many times that parachute got back in the plane. That was my foundation as a child, maybe age 5 when I had a brain to 13 when he died. He said the cream rises to the top. Partner with the cream that rises to the top or the folks that will get back in the plane without a parachute will do whatever it takes.We all have that same GPS inside of us called resourcefulness. When things don't go how they're supposed to, we can recalculate and find a different way to get where we're going. Click To Tweet
The one thing that comes to mind when I think about that, and I had to give a talk to a group of youth on this, was that we all have a GPS inside of us. It’s like in our vehicles. We have a GPS. If we miss the exit that we are supposed to get off, the GPS does is say recalculate. If we continue to miss that exit, it does the same thing. It never says to us, “Pull over. You can’t make it to your destination. You are not going to get there.”
It will continue to recalculate. We all have that same GPS inside of us. It’s called resourcefulness. When things don’t go the way they are supposed to for us, we have that ability to recalculate, and that’s resourcefulness. We find different ways to get where we are going. Many people that I have seen, especially over the last years, it’s been surprising to me how many people have shut their GPS off. It’s not capable.
I’m glad you said that, and we talked about this a little the last time. Most folks are not meant to be. They are not global entrepreneurs. This is what entrepreneur life is. In a few years, I have seen the same patterns. I still have not met one at the highest level that has not overcome at least 1 of the following 4 things. Most are 2 or 3, and then I talked to a lot of all fours.
The four things are 1) Potential bankruptcy, 2) Depression, 3) The highest level of anxiety you can imagine, and 4) Traumatic experiences as a child or young adult. Humans, employees, and consultants use those things and they shut off the GPS. Those are excuses. Entrepreneurs at the highest level get back in the plane without a parachute. That’s entrepreneurial life.
You either can do that or you shut off the GPS, and I partner with people that will do whatever it takes because those are the ones that will not make an excuse and allow me to spend time with my family. Putting my loved ones first is the cream that rises to the top. I’m a dad who happens to be an entrepreneur. People who waste time with excuses or turn off the GPS is not an entrepreneur. It’s someone who’s making excuses.
Your next book is Epic Life: How to Build Collaborative Global Companies While Putting Your Loved Ones First. We don’t think of those two together. As I thought about our conversation in 2020, how much of the last two years have shaped the writing of this book?
I will start with what hasn’t changed, but then what has. I was a journalist for twenty years before starting the first company. You don’t get into journalism for revenue, employee account, office space, and paying taxes four times a year. That’s material stuff. Journalism is almost always about creating purpose, helping society, and sharing cool stories of the world. Nothing has changed in that regard in terms of being an entrepreneur. Before COVID, I saw my wife and children more than any dead I have ever met, and now I spend more time with them.
Foundationally, I know what it’s like not to have a dad around, and I’m not going to do that. What has changed since 2020 and even a little bit before that is most of my day is spent talking to top entrepreneurs on the planet. I don’t know why my brain does this, but it does. It turns it into patterns. I talked to at least 1 to 2 people a week that have let entrepreneur life destroy their family life or prevented them from ever having a family.
When you see the same thing over and over, it reinforces, “I’m the dad who happens to be an entrepreneur, not an entrepreneur who happens to be a dad.” It reinforced what I already knew, but it’s good reinforcement. It’s those four things. The entrepreneur, the four things that most folks make excuses are turn off the GPS and entrepreneur doesn’t, but those four things also many times let entrepreneur life destroy their family life or prevent from having a family. I have those bumpers because of being a journalist for so long and then losing my father at a young age, but also from other folks talking to them reinforce why I have those bumpers because I don’t want to end up like that at all.
It is a challenge. There are times that they are in conflict. I can tell you from my own experience of pieces of business that I chose not to take on because of family obligations. I feel very much the same way you do. That’s my real legacy. I had the experience of I lost both of my parents when I was 17 at 18, about a year and a half apart, to cancer. I remember that and it left a very strong impression on me of what was important in the big scheme of things, and that was family. It’s always been that way, but it’s a choice.
There are two things because it’s a daily choice. I was at this house. His name is Chris Buckner and his foundation is for his son, who committed suicide. His son’s name is Dylan Buckner. He was a star quarterback, 4.7 GPA, had numerous offers to play football in college, and wanted to go to MIT. He was in high school when he committed suicide. My companies are partnering with him. We created an award for a graduating senior at Glenbrook North High School. That’s the high school where I went to and we are Dylan was going to raise awareness for mental health.
In this environment, the challenge is there are oftentimes too many filters that people put up not to be real about what’s going on. It’s easier to put up a quick video or a filtered image of how great things are. We do people a disservice when we don’t talk about the challenges that we face. Things aren’t always great for anybody.
Regardless if you are an entrepreneur or not.
Regarding the book, as you were writing this last one, Epic Life, is there anything that was an a-ha moment to you or something that reshaped some of your thoughts?
In the first book, the a-ha moment was that the PR firm was a giant incubator of geniuses, and we were constantly introducing each other for mutual gain. The new company is a giant network. The new company was in the first book. I didn’t know that, but it was there. I had a similar a-ha moment to that with the second book.
In the second chapter, About Recognizing Patterns, I don’t know why my brain works like that, but it sees the patterns in things. More importantly, when the pattern is recognized, we’ll do something about it and take action. I will make one example of that if it’s helpful. In my name there, I put my Kolbe score which is 8, 6, 1.
I have a 7 quick start with a 6 follow-through. It’s very rare to have a high quick start and high follow-through. Most of the folks that my firm is a partner with are a very high quick start, and then they are very low follow-through. They are all over the place and they need simplification and then activation. That’s one.
Two, there’s a thing called Gallup StrengthsFinder and Clifton StrengthsFinder. Most of the folks I talk to are high in ideation and futuristic, so they are often idea land. They then have a mix of activator or maximizer achievers. They are off in the future, but they will do something about it now. They will do something so they won’t get trapped in the idea land, so they will take action.In entrepreneurial life, nothing is perfect, and nothing is entirely right. Click To Tweet
That’s those folks. I’m very low and futuristic and almost dead last than ideation. I’m 32 out of 34 in ideation. If I hear a good idea, the top three are activator and maximizer achieves. Immediately simplify in an immediate result and intro. Three, I put my print score up as well. Print is your unconscious motivator. People see the tip of the iceberg, but they don’t see under the water, your unconscious motivator.
I’m 8, 3. 8 is to be strong and self-reliant, and 3 is to succeed and achieve. There’s no overthinking. Everything needs to be perfect and right. There’s no need to be appreciated, no massive, happy, and significant life. It’s just activate. Most of the folks that I talk to or partner with, if they have taken print 8, 3 or 3, 8, are full activators. That’s why they are top entrepreneurs on the planet because they don’t overthink. They don’t feel it. They go for it and do.
I even heard of print before, so that’s interesting.
Most people haven’t. That’s the rare one. I can email it to you if you want to take it. The things that you said earlier about the GPS or shutting it down. I’m guessing a lot of those folks are one in prints and the one is everything needs to be perfect and right. COVID is not bad in an entrepreneur’s life. Nothing is ever perfect and completely right. I don’t think there is. That’s a tough one for being an entrepreneur. I see it every now and then, the one print, but it’s pretty rare.
I worked for a company for a number of years and was comfortable in that world. I have many friends that are still in that environment, and they are very comfortable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very much about what drives you, what you feel your purpose is, and following through on that. That’s the scarier thing. A lot of people want to maybe do other things, but are too afraid that things aren’t going to work out. That’s the reality of it.
Those are overthinkers and over-feelers. That’s what I mean. That’s not an 8, 3 print. That’s fine. That’s going to be a tough go as an entrepreneur because that’s just not an entrepreneur. What is interesting sometimes is that it is the 2nd or 3rd generation of a family business where the grandparent or the parent was a full renegade outlier and started something. The children have the security and then they can do something.
That’s fine, but those children or grandchildren would never have started something like that. They didn’t have the gumption to do it, but they have the foundational knowledge to create something cool with it because they have the safety, security, and time. There are positives from that as well, but getting it off the ground, they would have never been able to do it.
When I looked at your title about putting level ones first, I went out on my own. I wanted to do what I’m doing now since 2008. What was that?
Entrepreneur life. Figure it out.
I jokingly tell that story of going across the street to a Burger King and only being able to get one thing off of the dollar menu because that is literally all I have because that’s the way it was. I knew that I wasn’t pulling away from that. That’s where I was meant to end up. I think it happened again through this last one of COVID and you build up this business, and all of a sudden, it slows down or stops in some regards.
Not for a moment did I think, “I have got to go back out and find a company to go work for. I knew that that wasn’t it.” In my initial point, I would say that the bigger driver for me was I wanted more flexibility with my family. I didn’t want to ask somebody for 2 or 3 weeks off to go to a game, miss a rehearsal, or any of that stuff. If I wanted to go somewhere with my kids, I wanted to be able to do that and not have to ask anybody’s permission to do that. That’s what it provided me.
It’s freedom. Not always, but usually, people like us marry stabilizing humans. I always ask people, “Is your spouse a nurse, social worker, school teacher, police officer, or an engineer?” They are like, “How did you know that?” I go, “Imagine if you married yourself, it does happen.” That’s either the greatest company ever or, more often than not, a complete dumpster fire because there’s no stability. My wife is a pediatrician and thinks the opposite of me. Warmth, love, empathy, rules, order, permission, and then here I am, and then our kids are a mix of that.
Their full goal for it with my wife’s caring and rules is fascinating. To have this freedom for my children, I help coach their baseball teams and I’m always at their practices. They play soccer and baseball and we do 5K races together. The little guy’s piano recital and picks them up at school 60% of the time. It’s hard for me to understand why you would destroy your family for revenue or employee account.
There was a good exercise I did, and maybe your audience and you’d want to do it too. It’s from a book called Hero on a Mission by Donald Miller. In there, he’s like, “It would be a good idea to write your own eulogy.” At first, I was like, “That’s a little weird,” but then I thought about it. I’m like, “You want to live all this time, but if it doesn’t mean anything, then what’s the point?” I wrote it and it’s good. I try to read it every day and it’s a good litmus test like, “Are you living the life that you want to live based on your life in the future?” It’s a good exercise.
I would say it allows you to clarify what your values are. Am I in alignment? I look at the work that I do in regards to where we build bridges with each other. That’s all we do and it’s based on our behaviors. Each bridge that I have in my family is unique. It’s a different bridge that’s been built. The first cable of that bridge is congruence. If I’m not in alignment with what I say and what I do, then that relationship suffers because of it. If I’m not true to myself, the same thing. If I don’t follow through on what I’m telling other people to do or what I say I believe in but do something else, then it doesn’t work.
The first bridge is with yourself. We talked about freedoms. In Strategic Coach, I’m very confident saying that it’s a top entrepreneurial group in the world. It’s more about having all these freedoms, as we talked about. There’s freedom of time, relationship, purpose, and money, so those are the four freedoms.
What I don’t think is talked about enough is the main freedom of relationship, and that’s freedom with yourself. If you don’t have that, then it’s hard to have freedom with other relationships. It’s about having that bridge with yourself. I’m glad you mentioned the bridge part. Some folks would be like, “That’s a selfish way of looking at things,” but I think it’s more selfless. If you can’t put yourself first, you damage yourself, and you can’t help other people, it starts with yourself.
There’s that cliche about being on the plane and you got to put your own mask on first before you can help anybody else. In my world of working with leadership is that, as a leader, if I am not comfortable with who I am and I’m not in a good place myself, I cannot be fully effective in being there for anybody else if I can’t be there for myself first.Keep making bigger investments to be in smaller rooms to create bigger impacts. Click To Tweet
We speak the same language. One of the chapters in the next book it’s called Winning the Wrong Game. I’m very low in ideation, but if I talk to someone who’s an ideator or futurist, I’m like, “That’s a good idea to activate, maximize, and achieve.” One of those folks is Jesse Elder. He’s a genius. He talked about two things. One is winning the wrong game. Folks that care about revenue, office space, and all that stuff. He’s like, “They are winning the wrong game.” I’m like, “That’s a good idea. I won’t do that.”
Two, he was like, “I know who I am, but more importantly, I know who I’m not.” He starts with who he’s not first, and that leads to knowing who he is. I’m like, “That’s pretty smart. I will do that too. I’m not an entrepreneur who would let entrepreneur life destroy my family life, not a business owner or consultant. I’m a full dad who happens to be an entrepreneur.” That’s it.
As we are wrapping this thing up, another thing that I think about as you say that is what Jim Rohn said, “The average of the five people we hang around the most.” We are so true that we elevate each other. You drew off of some things that you said, “That makes sense.” Success leaves clues. Why wouldn’t I try and find a way that I don’t have to implement everything into my own life? If I can grab bits and pieces from what other people are doing, I’m shortening that mistake curve that it’s going to be made?
One of the chapters in the new book is the Processes and Shortcuts. Mindset is a process. I was talking to an ideator or futurist, and he’s like, “It’s great that you are so low in ideation because you know if it’s a good idea, and then you can activate and maximize achieve, and then you know if it’s a bad idea,” which most things are bad ideas. I’m like, “I don’t do that.”
It’s short-cutting everything by learning from people that are smarter than you or in the entrepreneur world or life longer than you have been. If I’m not the dumbest or one of the dumbest people in the room, I’m in the wrong room. Otherwise, I get bored. If you are the smartest person in the room, you can’t learn anything.
You got to find another room.
Make a big investment. It’s the same pattern and formula that made this a good way to wrap it up because it summarizes everything. I keep making bigger investments to be in smaller rooms, but the people in those rooms are making a bigger impact. That allows me to have the biggest investment and the smallest room is my family, which is where I can make the biggest impact, so bigger investments, smaller room, bigger impact. I keep writing bigger checks to be in smaller rooms where the people in those rooms are making bigger impacts. That summarizes everything, whereas the book summarizes the shortcut and not using fear.
Speaking of that, when do you expect the book will be up?
Likely September 2022. I called that Epic Life and Dr. Peter Diamandis wrote the foreword. That’s a great honor.
I’m looking forward to reading that one as well once it’s out. As always, it’s great to see you again and share these insights. Thanks for being on the show.
- Justin Breen
- Justin Breen’s New Book Reveals The Secrets That Provided Him With An Epic Business – Previous episode
- BrEpic Network
- Strategic Coach 10X
- The Control Heuristic
- Hero on a Mission
About Justin Breen
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