AoL 039: Overcoming Obstacles in Life, Building a Church, and Pursuing Passion in Life and Business with Brawn Lide

The road to success is often not very clear. That’s one of the reasons I’m in favor of having a roadmap for your business. For many, however, even having a roadmap isn’t enough. Sometimes, an entrepreneur’s situation is so unique, that they simply have no idea where to begin. Or other times, the journey might be going smoothly, it’s just that it isn’t going fast enough for the goals that they have.

For me, my major problem was getting over my paralysis by analysis. I’m glad I finally started focusing on building New Inceptions last year. I’ve gotten a ton of experience and I’m definitely looking to ever larger opportunities.

For this session’s guest, however, even though things seem to have been going his way, he didn’t have a very long runway. In fact, when he first started his coaching business, he was mainly going on Faith that things would work out. Besides paying for his coaching training with his tax return that could have been used elsewhere (like supporting his 5 kids), he also committed to a mentorship program that almost cost nearly as much as the training itself.

When I met Brawn as my roommate at the John Maxwell Team training event, he would tell you that he was “hurtin'”. A big reason for that was that he had been a full time church planter for a couple of years at that time. What income he did have was coming from being involved as a math teacher for homeschooled kids.

Through all of this (and a little more), he’s been able to persevere and is now not only a full time JMT coach, speaker, and trainer, but a successful one.

In this session, we’ll learn why he left his stable job as a mechanical engineer to become the church planter, how he was able to grow that church from 23 to 350 members, and why he took a sales job during the time that he was building his coaching business.

If you or someone you know thinks life might be too complex to leave their comfort zone, I’d strongly urge you to listen to this chat. Brawn’s story is truly inspirational and is probably one of the best stories that I’ve heard thus far about overcoming obstacles in life. I’d especially listen if you need that extra kick in the pants to leave your comfort zone or you need help being honestly truthful with where you are in life.


  • How Brawn decided that he was going to go from a stable income as a Mechanical Engineer to being a church planter. (7:20)
  • What kind of struggles he had when he was trying to shed his label of Engineer (13:27)
  • How Brawn was able to be a full time volunteer for four years of his life with a family by helping with home school teaching. (17:48)
  • How he was able to help grow his church attendance from 23 to 350. (22:12)
  • What the John Maxwell Team, and JMT Mentorship program has meant to Brawn. (25:07)
  • What Brawn would tell someone if they found themselves having to suddenly lead from a position where they never saw themselves in. (31:43)
  • Why he went into sales when he wasn’t able to achieve his financial goals with his coaching business. (37:01)
  • How he was able to focus on his sales job, his business, and his family during this period in his career. (42:26)
  • What were some keys that lead to his success in speaking and coaching (44:35)
  • How Brawn was able to build his business outside of networking. (47:31)
  • What he likes the most about being a professional speaker and coach (51:58)
  • What are projects he sees himself doing in the next 5 years. (55:39)
  • If he had money to buy commercial space on TV, what would the message be? (1:01:06)
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most affected his life? (1:01:50)
  • What are 3 truths he’d want to share with others (1:03:00)
  • If someone wants to get out of their day job that they don’t find fulfilling? (1:08:06)
  • … and MUCH more!

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Brawn on what he does:

Brawn’s first interaction with John Maxwell:

Getting into Mechanical Engineering Wasn’t Easy:

John Maxwell and Brawn on what the word “Potential” means:

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining us again this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the top of the post.

Also, please leave an honest review for The AoL Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show, and we read each and every one of them.

If you have any questions feel free to email them over via the email mentioned in the show or by our contact form.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunesStitcherSoundcloud, and/or Google Play Music. It’s absolutely free to do so.

A huge thank-you to you guys for joining us!


zephan blaxberg interview

Zephan Blaxberg: Re-Scripting Your Life Through a Year of Purpose (AoL 028)

They say that your life can change by simply meeting one person. That new person can connect you to world that you only dreamed of living in. For some people, it might be landing that awesome job at a Fortune 500 company. For others, it might be finding a coach that will push them to excel and do more in life. Yet for others, it might just be that first client that will not only be a future raving fan but might actually be a mentor for years to come.

I think about that last one quite a bit. Not necessarily because I’m looking to find a mentor. No, I have my own.

Actually, I think about it because I want to help others succeed. So much has been given to me that I want to pass that power on to others.

This session’s guest, Zeph Blaxberg, knows all about this feeling. He, too, had a mentor that broke him out of mental jail. Working at an Apple Store as a fan of Apple’s… sure, that might sound like a great opportunity. However, when approached by his first client, he was quickly transformed to someone that was unemployable.

Like me, he wants to give back to others. He wants to help people break free of their every day lifestyle and live the life they could only dream of. He does this through multiple platforms including, but limited to, his podcast, a book, and an inner city social program that he helps with regularly.

Recently he was a guest on Pat Flynn’s podcast as someone that is indeed going places. So much so, that he inspired Pat to place an image of him on one of his keynote speeches.

In this chat between Laila, JC, and Zeph, we learn about his experience being featured on Pat’s podcast, his book and where the idea of it came from, his thoughts on the “fad of entrepreneurship”, and the success he had after hiring a business coach.

If you ever have felt that you want and deserve a better life, maybe you just haven’t met that one person – or people – yet. We hope our chat today can help you re-script your life.


  • Where his unusual name comes from.
  • What his high school experience was like and how he received double credit for it.
  • What the SPI podcast meant to Zephan when he first heard it.
  • What he’s realized about Pat after meeting him in person.
  • What it was like to have an impact on Pat.
  • When he felt like he had “arrived”.
  • When he hired his business coach and what that did for him and his success.
  • What his current work is focused on.
  • When he knew it was time for him to write a book.
  • How the launch for the book went and what he learned from the whole experience.
  • What Zephan believes makes his podcast successful.
  • The secret to getting busy guests on your podcast.
  • Why he does the podcast the way he does.
  • His thoughts on the “fad of entrepreneurship”.
  • …and MUCH more.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Zephan’s Filmography Company: ZMBMedia

Zephan’s Podcast Interview with Tara Magalski:

Pat’s Podcast Interview of Zephan (SPI Session 202)


Zeph Interviewed by Alex Harris:

BONUS: Zeph’s 2014 presentation on Overcoming Your Fear of Being on Camera

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining us again this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the top of the post.

Also, please leave an honest review for The AoL Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show, and we read each and every one of them.

If you have any questions feel free to email them over via the email mentioned in the show or by our contact form.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunesStitcher, and/or Podbean. It’s absolutely free to do so.

A huge thank-you to you guys for joining us!


Choosing the Right Business Idea for Your Future Success

Last week we came up with a way to make a list of decent ideas for a business. However, these are all ideas and while they might be good ideas, they might not be worth our time in pursuing. So how do we really find out if they’re ideas that we want to pursue and actually pilot? We have to dive a little deeper.

1. Is it Something You’re REALLY Passionate About?

Again, I can’t reiterate enough how important this really is. You must have passion about what it is you’re doing. Recently, the Fizzle crew talked about how doing a business you’re passionate in will be what carries you through the tough times.

See, here’s the thing, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing (meaning you don’t naturally think or do it), even if you do the following 2 steps, it really doesn’t matter in the end because as soon as a problem comes up, then you’re going to have some issues going forward. The simple truth is if you’re passionate about your idea and you really believe that it will work, then your chances of succeeding increase drastically. You’ll put in the extra effort and extra time to make it all work for you if you have the passion behind it. Plus, you’re more likely to create a better product, which will make your customers happy and more likely to buy from you again in the future.

Think of passion as a necessary part of successful long term business.

2. Is it Something that People are REALLY Actively Looking for or Need?

Just like passion needs to be mentioned again, so does this part. Hopefully you’ve done some market research before just to make sure that your idea is worth keeping. Is there an interest in it? Are people going to use it? Even if you have the best intentions, the worst thing that could happen is that you spend a ton of time and resources building something or things that people aren’t going to utilize.

I’ve seen this way too many times in the tech field. A lot of folks will think “Oh, Idea A is good. So is Idea B. If I put them together to Idea C, I’m sure to win!” This isn’t necessary true. Sometimes it’s possible to make something a little more complex than it needs to be… and that little extra complexity can be a problem for folks.

So how do you test that people want something?

  • Ask! – As I mentioned, in the Foundation and via Ryan Levesque, we find that the best way to figure out if a product is going to be utilized is to simply ask. You can ask 10 to 20 people and get an impression of whether or not something is worth pursuing. Remember that if you know a pain so well, that the people you’re asking will think you already have a solution. That’s the point where you make the presale!
  • Are the similar sites and businesses already out there? – If you can’t tell, this is the method I used in deciding to pursue New Inceptions. While Pat is focused on passive income, and Fizzle is focused strictly on online businesses, New Inceptions is focused primarily on those of us who have stumbled into this world of business as a second career path. A resource for those who feel that their inner needs and desires were not being met in the work that they were previously doing.
  • Do some Keyword research – Similar to the one above, you can check the internet to find out if a given topic is already being used. This is achievable by doing some keyword research. There are tools that are available for this. Google has a free one called the Keyword Planner. One that I’ve been using for years is called Market Samurai.
  • Survey Your Already Existing Audience – Perhaps you already have a platform and you’re wanting to offer something new. Instead of asking random people, ask those who have already bought from you once. In fact, those that have already bought from you might realize that your quality is to their standard, so

Remember that when you’re doing this research, it’s not you that’s on trial – it’s the idea. We’d love to believe that all our ideas can make us money, but in reality, it’s up to other people – the market. The best way to see if an idea will sink or not is to find if people will buy in before we ever do the work to do it.

3. Determine Your Scalability

In the passive income world, this is the big question. You don’t want to start a business that the more success you have with it, the more your position consumes you. (However, if you’re a work-a-holic like Gary V, you might actually enjoy that kind of thing.)

Ideally, if you’re in a real passive income setting, the more sales you have, doesn’t necessarily mean you work more. If a million sales suddenly happened one day, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? If you’re pure passive, it’d be an AWESOME thing. It would mean that you wouldn’t have to do ship anything else (as either they get electronic copies or you have another company sending things out) and/or you don’t have to handle accounts payable and receivable – it’s dealt with electronically.

Even if you’re not focused entirely in generating passive income (which, let’s be honest, who isn’t?), you’ll want to think about scalability too. Just in a different perspective. Once you run your idea past a few folks and you know you’d love doing it, think about whether or not you’ll be able to have other people to do it for you. I’m not talking about paying them. Let’s say that’s taken care of. I’m saying, actually have them doing the part you’re doing. Can you train them to do what you do?

If not, then maybe you’re planning on being an artist or musician that makes it so big you that you have orders coming all the time? If so, you’ll want to hire someone to take care of your marketing, office work, and other things you shouldn’t be dealing with. If you’re giving lessons of some sort (say like Roger Love), you might also want to learn how to take care of all the paperwork and marketing that goes into making something like he does successful at his level.


So, last week, we were collecting ideas that might be part of your overarching theme. This week, we’re inspecting them a little more thoroughly and sorting out the ideas that don’t quite fit. If you follow the above 3 steps, you’re planting some good seeds for a successful business. If you want further help with this subject of choosing a successful business, feel free to take a look at the course in Fizzle called Choosing a Topic by Corbett Barr. Get your first two weeks here free so you can get in without paying a cent.

business idea

Getting Your Business Idea Ready for Flight: A Short Checklist

As I’m continuing to catch up on some of my reading, one of the books that I find myself liking more and more is Pat Flynn’s Will It Fly?

I talked a little bit about this book in this post.  However, I must admit, I only skimmed over the book at the time because I was going over a couple of others.

I now find myself able to go over it in detail – including all the little activities he’s planned out for us as readers.

It has been a really enjoyable journey refining some of the thoughts I have about New Inceptions and what it’s potential is. (Which, as Donald Trump would say, is ‘UUGE! :))

If you’re just starting your online venture and you’re in the idea generation/clarity phase, I want to give you a few tips that I thought were really useful from the book… and even some that I’ve learned along the way as I’ve refined NI.

1. Write All Your Ideas Down – Yours and Others.

For the longest time, I would keep all my ideas in my head. If I had time, I would attempt to execute some of them, however over time, even the good ones would die.

When I went through The Foundation in 2012, one of the major things they taught was what I call niche product development. (I talk about this briefly in the podcast with Sharlotte Bouniol from last week.) Basically it means that you learn how to find the products you should be making from your audience. (Ryan Levesque also talks about this in his book, Ask).

If you dig so deep that you know a client’s problem more than they know it themselves. They’ll assume that you have the solution already.

In this process, if you tried to remember it all, I don’t believe you’d fully be able to. There’s simply way too much information collected during these interviews to remember all the issues

So I learned to write them down. Ever since, I’ve written ideas down that I’ve gotten from other people as well as those that I’ve thought up on my own.

If, for whatever reason, you feel like you shouldn’t write an idea down, do it anyway. For one, no one is going to see your list. Also, if you don’t know how to achieve everything right away with the idea, you can pack it away until you have a better idea of how to accomplish it. There’s a much more unlikely chance that it will disappear if written down than it would if you were to simply keep it in your head.

2. Don’t Cross Out an Idea Because It Already Exists

In the segment that I’m currently reading in Pat’s book, he talks about how most folks are looking for an idea that other people haven’t found yet. However, from this post, we should remember that this is nearly impossible. In fact, it’s good that it already exists. It will save you the time and resources to recreate the niche!

An example of this is with fast food restaurants and the nearby chain retail stores. Have you ever noticed that these chains all seem to be right on top of each other?

As far as the restaurants go, you’ll always see a Burger King near a McDonald’s, true. But have you ever seen a Burger King without a McDonald’s nearby? Personally, I can’t think of many instances. And there’s a reason for this. For the most part, early on, Burger King let McDonald’s determine all the good spots to set up shop.

Later, if there was good traffic to that particular area, you started to see other restaurants building on top of established chain locations AND even retail spots – such as Target and, later, Walmart. That’s the basis behind suburbs blowing up the way they have – and all of their “strips” looking very similar to the one in the nearby town.

You can read more about this phenomenon here.

Really, you should think of your niche in the same manner. Unless it’s a small niche, the more traffic in your niche the better.

However, that said, if there isn’t much substance to what you’re bringing, you won’t last long. So don’t expect to just succeed overnight. If there is already established traffic, you’ll have to spend some time learning how to tap into it – just like startup restaurants and stores have to in an established shopping area.

3. Do Something You Have Passion (or at least an Interest) In

If you’re going to be chasing money, you can only do that for so long before you burn out. Eventually, if you plan to stay self-employed for the foreseeable future, you’ll want to do something you feel is natural to you.

For me, I’m a catalyst of people – helping them explore what could be.

I’m a teacher.

I like tech, business strategy, leadership, and am a huge fan of self awareness and self improvement. Combine those all together and that’s what I want New Inceptions to reflect.

Ask yourself, what am I naturally interested in? What do I want to study or think about when no one is looking? Can I make that into a business that will support the things I want to do in life?

In the long run, your business has to reflect you, otherwise you’re going to grow tired of it. (Hell, you might even see it as a job that owns you!) However, your products (especially early on) should help people with very niche issues. Eventually you can add on to them and create suites. But start simple at first. Solve one pain at a time.

4. Fine Tune Your Idea

Another exercise that Pat shares in his book is all about starting out focused. In fact, he helps us do this by having us write a page about our business. Then, he has us break that down into a paragraph. Finally having us write a sentence that defines our business.

The sentence I ended up with from this exercise was this:

New Inceptions is a fiercely loyal online virtual resource hub that connects creative entrepreneurs (Renegades) with the insight, tools, motivation, and community to build a successful online business.

I’d highly recommend doing this exercise. I think it’s definitely going to help me get more focused in what I’m doing.

Action Steps

Here we are, already in March of 2016. It’s essentially been a year since I started on this new path. Personally, I’m starting to see some of my seeds from last year start to grow. For one, I’m helping Mark Nathan launch his book on a larger scale. On another, I’m starting the process of building my first product. And, I’m having some good thoughts on what I want to make my Opt-In in the future be. (Cause let’s face it… it’s so VAGUE right now!)

These are all things that I could not have imagined last year. Why? Because I really had no idea what I wanted to do last year. I couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to do. But I was attacking the problem incorrectly. At least for me.

The thing is, you don’t have to do one thing. You can totally do a theme for your site and business.

However, your products or services need to solve specific pains that your customers have.

In this next week, I want you to start thinking of your theme. What kinds of things do you like to do now and in the past? What do you see your ideal future looking like in 5 years?

Next week, we’ll start asking ourselves questions on whether or not the idea that we have is going to get us to where we want to be in the future.

Labeling Business Accomplishment: Find Your Place, Your Peers, and GROW Faster!

With all the business training going around these days and the interaction of people at all levels of business, many business trainers have tried to label where people are by using a scale or other descriptive words to illustrate where people might be on the entrepreneurial path.

In Fizzle, for example, they have a roadmap to developing one’s business that contains three distinct phases that I chatted briefly about in this post few weeks ago. These 3 phases describe those who are starting their business:

  • Phase 1: Clarity stage (Figuring out what you want to do.)
  • Phase 2: Building Your Business (Building it enough that it replaces your day job financially).
  • Phase 3: Scaling (Fine tuning, adding paid team members, and growing larger than what you could do on your own)


While these three phases work out really well for Fizzle because they’re all about getting us from nothing to something, I believe it’s 3/4’s of the full story. Plus, as for the overall business world, there should be a description to describe those who have reached a high level of their own growth and are strictly focused on helping others grow. John Maxwell would call these Level 5 Leaders. Some of those folks might include serial entrepreneurs, gurus, angel investors, philanthropists, and advisors. Again, think more like Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn, Gary Vee, on to someone like Oprah.

Essentially, people that wouldn’t be using Fizzle because they would have outgrown it.

For about a month, I’ve been trying to come up with a more generic ranking in helping people quickly understand where people are in the business world.

Finding the Solution

In a recent poll that I conducted on Facebook, I asked the members of a group where they fell in building their business. I wanted to find out where people were so that we could find out the makings of the group. This would lead us to reach out to those that were in similar levels and also figure out who we could reach up to for help.


Here was that poll:

business building

Where do you fall?

Besides the fact that I realized that I apparently don’t know how to use the alphabet (what happened to g and h?), I found out that all of these levels were being used to describe where people were in the group. Many were new and hadn’t started even building a platform (groups a and b), while a few were starting their business and had some success (groups c and d). Yet, others were having more success and scaling (groups e and f). Even more interesting, is that there are folks in the group that have had more than just success with online business, they’ve started a few businesses online and could be straight up veterans. It’s really hard to tell why those people are in the group. Networking? Sure.

Now, as far as the first three segments – I think you can describe those as the Clarity, Building, and Scaling segments from Fizzle. But what about that 4th group? I had to figure out something that could describe all 4 groups. And that’s when it hit me.

Why not use the labels that we’re all so familiar with when it comes to accomplishment in the scholastic world? I mean, it makes sense.

Let’s Look at Some Definitions:

Why does it make sense to use these terms that a lot of us might want to forget? Well it’s because they actually have appropriate meaning! Check this out:

The term Freshman dates back to the mid-16th century where it has invariably meant either “newcomer” or “novice.”

Sophomore is derived from two Greek terms, sophos, meaning “wise,” and moros, meaning “foolish” or “dull”. Meaning that the term Sophomore originally probably meant a wise moron! (I would definitely say I fit this rank right now. I know a lot of stuff, but I’m not exactly sure when to use it all!)

Junior simply means the younger of two. This is defined in relations to their more learned upperclassmen. Early on, juniors were called “Junior Soph,” and seniors were denoted with “Sophester”.

Senior has been used since the mid-14th century in English to denote either an older person or one of authority.

Cool, huh? Easily fits the different groups of folks in the group!

Check this Out

So here’s something else that I realized. When it comes to business, most people when they jump from one business to another have to start over again. As upcoming podcast guest Theresa French said in her interview, “going from one business to another type of business is just as hard as going from working a job to a business”. So, if that’s the case (which I’m pretty sure it is), then that would mean that those that start something new, are freshman again. (Makes sense, this is how college works.)

However, because they’ve already gotten their feet wet in business, I’d think that it’d be more suiting to call them sophomores again. They have skills, they just don’t know how exactly to apply them yet.

Grow Faster by Working with your Classmates!

Ok, so now that you’re familiar with these terms, why is it important? Because, it’s almost ALWAYS something that industries do – come up with their own words to describe something that might be complex to others outside of that industry.

Just like academia, the rules of business stay the same. What changes is the knowledge used for a particular business and how we execute in our industry. The catch is, as solopreneurs, we all have varying degrees in how well we’re doing both.

Typically speaking, the more experience we have, the more we’ll know how to wield both knowledge and execution. Labeling these levels of experience helps us determine whether we’ll be using our time effectively with the other person.

Freshman always want to learn from upperclassmen. However, working with seniors all the time might not be the best thing for them.

While it’s good for both parties to be around each other from time to time to expand each other’s point of view, there is a ton of work between a freshman and a senior. Just like in high school and college, the freshman gets frustrated that they can’t keep up and the senior gets frustrated when the freshman just doesn’t get it.

We have to learn from the upperclassmen, but practice with those who are our peers.

Action Steps

So this is a fairly simple activity. Figure out which level you’re at and connect with those that are close to you in experience. Perhaps even start a “study group” (aka mastermind) with them! (Just like when you’re studying, you’ll learn things much quicker from different perspectives than if you were to just go it alone.)

Are you a freshman? A sophomore? Maybe even a junior? Who are the seniors in your life? Are you learning from their path of success and how to apply things they’ve learned on your own journey?

Have you made already made a mastermind of peers that you can grow together with? If you have, that’s great! You know that iron sharpens iron. If you haven’t, think about who you’d want in that group. Freshman don’t tend to care who they study with, however, it might be best to start out with other freshmen or sophomores. Anything higher and you might find yourself drinking from a fire hose.

As a sophomore, a junior, or even a senior, you have to be picky not to get too many lowerclassmen in your group. Otherwise it doesn’t do YOU any good! Don’t let your niceness weigh you down. You’re not doing them or yourself any favors!