Nov. 30, 2021

How Jason Feifer pursues opportunities without constraints Ep. 46


Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and host of the podcast Build For Tomorrow.

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Transcript
Jason:

I would go out to events and I would realize that people don't understand what my job is. And they just think that I'm a guy who knows a lot. And at first I felt like I had to correct them, but then I realized, oh no, if I can be whatever on earth it is, they think I am. There's a great opportunity here and then I had to everything to get there.

Natasha:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics? Will be discuss to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Hey, can you do me a favor while you're listening to this podcast? Can you open a web browser and type in officialnatashamiller.com. Yes, this is my brand new website that I built for you, entrepreneurs that want to scale and grow their business. It's packed full of information articles, blog posts, podcasts, and also you can download the Free Profit Finder Guide that helps you find more profit in your current business.

You can get on the waitlist for my digital course and be the first to know when my book Relentless is up for pre-sale. Today, I'm talking to Jason Feifer, who is the Editor-In-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine and host of the podcast Build For Tomorrow. He's refined his personal brand that encompasses his newsletter, podcast, speaking and soon to be new book, we talk about how to figure out what your community really wants from you. How to juggle a full-time job while starting a new endeavor and how not to pitch to the press.

Jason:

Oh boy. Tell me about my new brand Build For Tomorrow. Well, here is the first thing that I will tell you, boy, you should do some research into your audience.

That's really, really helpful to do that. So I thought I knew my audience and I didn't. I used to have a podcast called Pessimists Archive. The idea there was that it was an archive of pessimists. It was understanding why people were concerned about innovations from the past and how they overcame it. And it was a history show and a kind of curiosity show.

And I really loved making it. And I thought that the people who listened to it really love history. And then I hired a consultancy and Pen Named Consulting you are familiar with. And one of the first things that they did was they put Rochelle Devoe on their team on the project of interviewing and understanding my audience so that we could understand how to grow the show.

And she came back with a number of really fascinating insights. The two that jumped out at me the most were number one, the name was a barrier to intro, people thought the show was a pessimistic show. And I had occasionally heard that, but I had dismissed it as, "Oh, you one person you're not spending time understanding my project."

But as it turns out, this was a very widespread problem. The name pessimists archive, a barrier to entry people thought it was a pessimistic show. If they got over it, if they listened to the show and discovered it's not a pessimistic show, then they had trouble getting friends to listen to it. Cause the friends will be like, oh, I don't want to.

So anyway, that was probably number one, problem. Number two, it wasn't a problem so much as it was a misunderstanding. Like I just told you a second ago, I thought that my audience for this podcast was interested in. History and esoteric things. And yet when Rochelle interviewed them, what she heard over and over again, was it the reason that people listen to the show was because it helped them feel resilient about the future.

That's what they told her. So I was making this deep dive history show. People were experiencing it as a self-help show that is fascinating. I took all that in. And I realized that a show that is ultimately about change has to change. And I have to start to lean into what I know and maximize the value of the thing that I'm creating.

And that means among them, it's time to change the name, even though I've had it for years, even though it will cause confusion, let's do it now. And next, I need to make the show more relevant to current topics people are finding value in this because they're hearing these historical tales, but what would happen if I started to focus in, on what people were actively concerned about and talking about now, and then went back in history from there.

Now I'm making a much more relevant show and I'm leaning into the value that people are telling me that they provide. And then once I realized that this was in need of change, I realized, you know, now I have the opportunity to actually build a unifying brand. Cause I do all of these things. I have a newsletter.

I got the podcast. I was writing a book or I was planning to write a book and I can bring it all under the same umbrella. And so now the newsletter is called build for tomorrow. The podcast is called bill for tomorrow, the book, which comes out September, 2022 from Penguin Random House also called wouldn't, you know, it Builds For Tomorrow.

And now I have a unifying brand that understands its value cannot stress it enough. It's started with understanding that.

Natasha:

Okay. Wonderful. I love it for those who don't know or don't have access to someone like pen name, where do you look? Because when you look for identifying an audience, interviewing them, by the way I took the survey, but I didn't get to talk to them.

Jason:

Oh! Thanks for taking the survey.

Natasha:

I Know, I did it. How would you suggest people go about finding an entity like that?

Jason:

Well, okay. So first of all, Let's just explain that little survey thing that you mentioned. So the process was that we created a survey and then distributed that survey through social media. And I think I might've announced it on the podcast too.

And it was a bunch of questions about you listened to the show. How often do you listen to the show? What do you think? Why, why don't you listen to the show? Right. It's always important to understand why people don't like something don't do something. And then at the end it was like, click here. If you willing to be interviewed.

And then we, we, I keep saying we Rochelle selected a diverse range of people who had filled out the survey to talk to on the phone and we incentivize those people by giving them. $50, Amazon gift card for spending an hour or whatever on the phone with her. So that's how the report. And that was expensive.

I will say that is expensive work, so-

Natasha:

You're not the only thing Penn named did with you though for this project?

Jason:

No, it was not, it was the foundational first thing that they did and then everything came from it. So I don't know how to break out what that would have cost by itself, but I will just tell you, pen name is expensive.

Surely that work was also very expensive. So let's say that you either don't have, whatever amount of money you think I'm talking about right now, I'm not going to announce their pricing, or let's say you don't have that money. You don't want to spend that money or whatever. Like what can you do? I would strongly suggest that you do some version of that yourself, if you don't have somebody to do it for you, which is just say, just survey your audience, build a survey, you can do it for free Google forms or whatever it's called takes care of that.

And then hop on the phone with people and you know, what people like to talk. And yes, we paid them a $50 gift. But I bet a lot of people would have done it for free and they certainly would've done it for free if it meant talking to me, which in this case, it didn't, we had somebody who strategically does this, but I could have done it.

And if you a person building something, you either can put yourself out there and have those conversations. I think people would be pretty happy to talk to you. Then you just got to make sure that you frame it. Like you're letting them in on the process. You're building something for them. I remember talking to Keith Crock, who was the chairman of DocuSign when I talked to him and he had built this like multi-billion dollar company called the RIBA before that.

And he has this philosophy about how to start a company. And it was that you have to turn your first customers into an advisory board, right? Like the first people who come along, you're like, you're on the advisory board and they love it. Right. They love it because they want to be a part of it. And then they basically help you shape the correct product for them.

And then once that happens, they want to go out and tell everybody about it because now they feel a sense of ownership. You can do that as well. Right. But you just have to be realistic about what you're asking people and make sure that you're getting down to an understanding of why they do. And don't why they do like why they don't like you.

Why don't they listen to you more? They, why don't they buy from you more? Why don't they tell their friends about you? I was not long ago talking to a friend of mine who has a consulting coaching business. She for a while was really excited because she started it and she got 30 clients and she was like, wow.

And now she's realizing she has a problem because those 30 clients. Have not produced more clients. Right? It's fixed at 30. We were talking about this. I was like, you have a problem. You don't know what problem you have right now, but you have all problems and you got to go figure out what that problem is.

Right. What is it? Is it a communications problem? Is it an education problem? Is it a customer service problem? Why did you attract these initial clients? And then those clients aren't telling other people and turning people into future clients. You have a problem. It's time to survey people. It's time to understand.

And you don't have to hire pen name and spend a bunch of money. I mean, go do it. If you have the money was money well spent for me, but there's lots of other ways to do that.

Natasha:

I was thinking, as you were speaking about this, you've been a writer, an editor. You are the editor in chief of a very big magazine that every entrepreneur reads. It has to be true.

Jason:

Every single one-

Natasha:

Every single one. I mean, if they know it. Is this the first business that you're building. And this is a business?

Jason:

Me personally, you know, I guess it depends on how you think of it. I was a freelancer for a very long time. There were times where that was my sole line of work.

I was a self-employed freelance writer. I wasn't particularly strategic in the way that I am now. So in the last couple of years, as I started to snap all these different elements of what I do together. I would say that, yes, this is the first time that I've really thoughtfully and strategically built a business.

Right prior to that, I was just a media guy. I reported, I wrote possibly someone out there is like, wait a second. I'm confused. The guy who runs entrepreneur magazine is saying that this is the first time he's built a business. And the answer is yes. That's how the media works. I know it's ridiculous that a guy who isn't like from the business world took over a business magazine.

That's crazy, but that just is how it is. Right. The thing is, is that I was hired because I have a background in making magazines and media to come into a media company and do that. But it was transformative just by the way. Like I used to work at men's health and you go into the office of men's health and pumping iron and the opposite of mental. So-

Natasha:

That's really too bad that you blew that image. Everyone has about mental.

Jason:

I know -

Natasha:

Thanks a lot, Jason.

Jason:

I'm sorry for what it's worth at the New York office of mental health. When I was there, there were some dumbbells in a closet, but I never saw anybody touch them. Yeah. But we became transformed by the entrepreneur.

Spoke to one of the things that they taught me. And I say they in a sort of collective way, because I was absorbing the mindset of the entrepreneurs as much as anything else, I just have this amazing. Opportunity. I can speak to the most interesting people. I mean, like, literally just today I went from speaking to a former NFL player.

Who's fascinating too. And then like my next call was with a billionaire hedge fund guy, I guess, just everybody. It's really fascinating. So one of the things that I realized after talking to enough entrepreneurs was that I was building my career horizontally and entrepreneurs think vertically. So I was spreading myself out.

I would write one story and move on to the next, or I'd move on to the next story. These stories sometimes had nothing to do with each other or if they did, they didn't build upon themselves. I wasn't gathering an audience. I wasn't returning to the same subjects or sources. It was completely horizontal, which is just how media works.

That means that I was kind of always starting from scratch and there was some level of a scarcity mentality that I had as a result. And that's true for my peers and media. But once I started to think as an entrepreneur, I realized, oh no, no, no, no, no entrepreneurs think vertically. They build everything on top of whatever they already did.

So there's no point in doing something unless it leads to something else. That's a completely different way of thinking, like just unbelievably different. So that's what really shifted me from, you know, previously I was a freelance writer and I would just like write for this place and that place, blah, blah, blah, to somebody who was thinking, let me build vertically, what can I build?

And so, you know, now I have an LLC under, which is a whole bunch of big projects. I do quite a lot of speaking, a newsletter. I'm exploring some TV projects and more, and they all are coming from the same themes and ideas and skillsets. And now I feel like I understand how to build in a way that I never did before.

Natasha:

You've been bitten by the bug. I can't see how you couldn't be with what you get to experience in your job. How is the new brand tracking? What are future plans for it? I'll ask the third question after you're done, because that's another question that I really want people to hear.

Jason:

All right. So now you can tolerate my answer just to get to the third question serious.

Now I want to know it all. So how's the new brand tracking. That's a very interesting question. You know, it's funny. I spent many years as I was building my own thing while still an entrepreneur, let me be clear. And I still am. And I see them as very complimentary. And so does entrepreneur and everybody's happy.

So I was asking around, what's the thing that I need to do to have everything coalesced. Right? I do all this random stuff. I make the podcast. I do speak. What's the thing that brings it all together. And everybody kept saying, you gotta write a book. You have to write the book and they have to have like this singular product that's out there that proves you in the marketplace that establishes you.

And so I knew that as a fact, and yet for a long time, I didn't do anything about it. And the reason was because I just kept thinking, I don't have time to do that. What am I supposed to do that? And also, do I have enough material for a book? Do I have a central idea for a book? Like, I don't want a book that's just like, change, colon, it's good. Right? Like this doesn't nobody wants that book. How do I purchase? And then the pandemic started. Maybe you've heard of it in March of 2020. And I get a call from my agent and book agent slash friend from the neighborhood who I met on a playground because both of our sons are friends with each other from school and he calls me and he's like, you know, that book you've been thinking about writing about change. Now's the time to do it because everybody's thinking about change because we're in a pandemic and everybody's life is changing. And I said, oh my gosh, you're right. So I then was pushing myself to figure out how do I write this book? What is this book?

What is my main message? And as that was going on, I started telling this story to people and the story went like this. I was watching how we were all evolving. And reacting to the pandemic. And I realized that I was witnessing people move through four phases. The first phase was panic. Panic. Second phase was adaptation, adapting.

What is it that I still have? How can I get back on my feet? Third phase was new normal. I shall build a foundation and I shall grow on top of that. I should lay a foundation. I should build on top of it, I should say. And then the fourth phase was wouldn't go back. That was the most important. That was the whole point of the whole thing.

Right. Wouldn't go back where people get. New idea, some new way of running their business or managing their life that they say, this is so valuable to me that I wouldn't go back to a time before I had this. So I just started telling that story. I think even originally on like Entrepreneur Magazine, like sales calls, you know, I would like get on the call with the sales team and some sponsor that we were pitching and I would tell them this story.

And I just thought that it was really resident. And I told that story to like a speaking agent and then they signed me exclusively. And then I told the stories of other people and they were like, we would like to work with you. And I realized there is a power to the story. The book is this, this is the guide. This is the book right now.

I have the ownable IP. Now I have something to orient. All of my ideas around. I have a structure. I have a story to tell it's mine. And that was when everything snapped together. And I realized that the point of the book isn't just to have a product out there. The point of the book is to push you, to organize your ideas into something coherent.

And so you asked how the brand's going. Well, the book comes out next year, so I'm now preparing to sell the book. I actually already were a year out and I already have a very significant number of book by. Yeah, well, nobody it's not yet because it's not presale yet because presale commitments is the word I'm looking for.

Purchasing commitments for when presale actually starts, which won't be for quite a while because pre-sale happens usually about three months before actual sale. Anyway, point is I'm feeling very good, but I've landed some big deals, which I've been very excited about. But yeah. Talk to me next September and we'll see how I'm feeling.

Natasha:

We're going to reel it back a little bit. Cause you just opened up a couple of.

Jason:

I said a lot of things you did.

Natasha:

So for the book, is it important for you to be on New York Times, USA today or Wall Street Journal, bestseller list?

Jason:

Yes and no. I mean, look, is it important to me? Yeah, I would like, it sounds great.

Oh, look, my agent is texting me right now. See what he has to say? How are you going to put a lot of wait, time, energy and finances into trying to make those lists? Right? So the answer is, by the way, everyone's waiting to know what did my agent just text me? The answer is question. Did you say you have an easy transcript creator?

Yes. The answer is Descript.

Natasha:

Descript is amazing.

Jason:

Descript is the best. I'm just texting him back to Descript. I love it. That's how I make my podcasts. That's my hot tip of the day use Descript. So, and also it's great for audio editing, just as wonderful. Okay. Here's the thing with the lists. My agent and my editor have both said this to me and let me just be clear.

My agent works with really, really big names. And my editor does too. These are people who work on bestsellers, who create bestsellers top of the game. I've been extremely fortunate to work with amazing people. They have both told me do, not not make these lists, your goal do not do it. There's no point to it. I mean, my editor literally told me he was like, let's talk about what success looks like for us here at Penguin Random House success does not look like landing on a list.

It doesn't why. Well, look because they want me to sell a lot of books and I want to sell a lot of books. The lists are. Somewhat arbitrary. It's not just a count of all. Whoever sold the most books, who knows just some magic, something that they don't reveal. I'm not going to bother trying to figure it out because it's impossible.

So I don't want to make a marker of success. Something that I can't control. Also frankly, you can make a list one week and then your book can disappear and you didn't actually sell that many books.

Natasha:

Yeah, you don't really have to sell six to 8,000 to be on USA today and wall street. I don't know the number for New York, but you have to be basically published on a traditional platform which you were.

Jason:

Right. So it depends upon which category you're being put out on, like what the number is, but yes, for some of the categories, six to 8,000 will do it dot, dot, dot, unless it doesn't right, because who knows. So that's not the goal. Getting there it'd be great because then I can put that on every damn thing that I do forever more, and maybe it'll help with speaking fees and all sorts of other things.

Would I like to be on those lists? Yes. Will I do my best to get on the list? Sure. In a way in that I'm going to do my best to sell a lot of books and hopefully that lands me on the list, but that is not how I am going to evaluate success. I feel very, very strongly that in everything that I do and everything that anybody does, you should not define success by something that you cannot control. If a list is in someone else's hands, it's not in my hands, selling books is in my hands, right. I can hustle my ass off and sell books. And that is what I'm going to do. I mean, for real, I have spent the last four or five years filling out a spreadsheet called good contacts, everybody I need, I am sure you are on that list.

Everybody I need goes into one of the tabs and what's the point of that? To sell books. I am telling you to sell books. And so I will be hitting up all those people. Now you're going to do everything I possibly can, but the list. You know, whatever. If somebody puts me on a list, I'll be happy. And if not, I'm not going to cry.

Natasha:

Okay. So we're going through a whole another loophole through a different kind. It's fine, it's great for your book. So for instance, my book is coming out next year. I have a 21 point monster marketing plan. It is so overwhelming and we'll take a small army. And I realized that with traditional publishers, they do offer some marketing and some publicity it's pretty limited unless you're Glennon Doyle or whatever.

So you really do have to invest in your own sales and marketing funnels. And I guess I would say, what are you planning on doing that's could be a whole other podcasts that would probably be a five hour podcast, 21 marketing, 21 point and I've shaved off elements. Jason, I was going to release an NFT, which I am very passionate and excited about and I realized without serving my people, NFT is too early for my target demographic.

Right now, and it would be too challenging for me to try to get them over the bridge to understand what they are, what the value is, et cetera, et cetera. So what are you going to be doing?

Jason:

It's all NFTs.

Natasha:

I'll be your first buyer.

Jason:

Perfect. Good. No, I have not gotten into the NFT world either largely, just because it's like too much to learn. I got too many other things to do whatever it's. Sounds cool. Maybe sometime. So. Look, the caveat here is it's early days, right? We are speaking whenever people are listening to this, I don't know, but we are speaking on October 14th, 2021.

My book comes out September of 2022. So we are 11-

Natasha:

I thought its summer, which felt a lot sooner.

Jason:

It was, it was originally August. They moved it to September, which is great. It's exciting. September is like the big it gives you more time to plan.

Natasha:

And to put into action, the plan.

Jason:

Yeah. So we're roughly a year out the call that I literally had just before talking to you, like hung up the other call, click the link.

And now here we are, was with a PR agency. I'm talking to a whole bunch of them and they're going to send me proposals. I'll somehow figure out who's the best one. So here are the things that I know I'm going to do right now. Obviously, I'm going to hire a pre. I'm going to gun for as much great press as possible and try and get on as many podcasts as possible, big and small.

I know a bunch of people who have very large podcasts and I sure hope that they will have me on their podcasts. I'm also just going to open the flood gates, any damn person who wants me on their podcast is going to do it.

Natasha:

Do you have someone going after this podcast, interview requests on your behalf, like a staff member, a virtual assistant, or you doing it on your own?

Jason:

Well, the big ones will be coordinated with the PR agency at the small ones, I don't really know what I'll do with the small wise, I get a ton of requests anyway, and I turn most of them down because I just don't have the time. So part of it is just going to be that I'm going to just start saying yes.

And I'll also just start advertising on my own socials that I'm here for you, everybody's got a podcast. I don't know. I don't have a strategy for the small ones yet. The big ones. I know what I'm going to do, which is through PR and through myself. Right. But I don't know about the smallest and then I'm going to develop a whole bunch of different pre-sale incentives. So for example, I've got a pretty decent social following and I've also got a bazillion people in that space. That I, you know, like the spreadsheet has a bunch of cut-

Natasha:

Will it be like a day with Jason in the office and then a whiskey tasting after-

Jason:

I haven't quite gotten there yet could be. I don't know that anybody wants a day in the office with me. That sounds boring, but it would be everything from buy two books and I will send you a voice memo, answering a question of yours to buy many books. I'll come to your office and give your team a talking to yeah, so, right. So I'm going to leverage my own time to reward people for buying the books and how exactly I'm going to arrange that as still a little early, to be honest with you, but it'll be that also, I'm going to turn event into book buying opportunities. And I've already started to do that in ways that I found to be pretty satisfying. So for example, let's just remind you I'm a year out right now. So I've got a couple I've pulled this off three times so far in the last, a couple of weeks, which is that some, an event would reach out to me and they would ask me to do their event to speak at their event.

This fall, right? "Hey, could you do a half an hour virtually at this event that we're doing in three weeks?" And I know that they don't have a lot of money for this, right? They usually don't when they're reaching out last minute, like ever sometimes they do, I guess. I don't know, but I would ask, so what kind of money are we talking about here?

And often it's not a lot. And I note that next year's event is probably going to be bigger because people are going, gonna have more time. Right. We're going to be back in person. Budgets are going to be bigger. People don't usually have speakers return every year to events. You know, they want to have a cycle.

So here's what I'm thinking. I think, well, what if I do whatever it is they need now contingent upon them and I'll do it for free bonus. "You need me, you need me on short notice and you don't have much of a budget. Great. I'm here to serve. I'll do it for free in return. You will have me at your event next year, and you will make a very, very large book purchase because now you'll have budget and you kind of owe me for two events."

I would rather defer that whatever it is until then. And that has worked out very well. I've just got a commitment for a thousand books that way and a couple more for pretty high purchases. So I'm being creative there. And, uh, I don't know. I'll come up with some other stuff. That's where we're at right now.

Natasha:

Okay. So now I'm going to get back to what I was trying to get you to answer, which is just going to ask you again for your personal brand, for my personal brand.

What are the future plans for it? And what KPIs are you focused on right now? So it's in growth mode. I don't know if you have a staff, I'm going to assume you might have an assistant.

Maybe that's the staff.

So future plans, where's it going? And what are the current KPIs that you're looking at when you're looking at growth podcast, downloads books sold speaking engagements, and at what rate, that kind of thing.

Jason:

That's a great question. And I have loose answers to be honest, right? Like I watch my podcast numbers, but I have spent the last year trying to figure out, for example, what is the best actual spend on podcast promotion? Because everybody's got a different answer. And most things don't really work. And I don't know how to translate budget into expectations of growth, or I did it and now I'll finally, it took a long time and a lot of spent money on nonsense things, but now I'm getting to the point where I feel like I can understand it.

And so now I can start to feel. All right. I'm going to make this spend and I expect to see 10,000 more subscribers by next month. Right. And so I'm starting to think that way and evaluate the spend that I'm doing, accordingly. And so that's-

Natasha:

You evaluate the value of a podcast listener for instance, and the lifetime value that they may have within your brand and what you're going to be offering.

Jason:

So, I don't right now. And the reason for that is because monetizing the podcast is a low priority for me. I don't see the podcast itself as a great revenue driver. And that's. Because I see the podcast as something else. I see the podcast. And, but here we're talking about Built For Tomorrow by podcast Built For Tomorrow.

Cause I have another one for entrepreneur, the other one for entrepreneurs called problem solvers and entrepreneur sells into it. Right. And it's a revenue driver for entrepreneur, but I just see that it's a separate thing. It's like a product for entrepreneur Built For Tomorrow is a product for me. So Build For Tomorrow.

Look, it takes me a month to make each episode. It's a show that by its very nature is going to grow more slowly than a show that I was able to pump out every week. But why do I make it once a month? Because I make an insane, highly produced or like ridiculously over the top ambitious show. And that's just the show I want to make.

And I'm not interested in making a show that takes less work and comes up more frequently. I just, it wouldn't be as proud of it. So I would rather make the show that I want to make. It's going to come out less frequently and therefore it's going to grow slower. What is the point? Well, I have an answer for you.

And the answer is that it is an IP factor. And it is a relationship builder. So a lot of the research that I do for the show ends up in other places. A lot of the books that I wrote for example, was built off of the research that I did for the show and some of the best bits that I do on stage when I go and give a keynote, came out of the show, the show is an excuse for me to do a deep dive on research and come away with fascinating things that I use in other formats.

And so I sell ads into the show. It's not in a way in which. I can think of what the lifetime value is of an individual subscriber, because the show has a different purpose to me and then relationships as well, Marc Andreessen, Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most famous Silicon Valley investors emailed me out of the absolute blue a year ago.

Did you say that he loved my podcast and ask when the book is coming out and I'm like, that's amazing people like that are listening to the show. And that matters to me more than whatever CPMs on an advertisement. So that's why I make the show, but each project has its own kind of goal. Like this newsletter.

I launched this newsletter with Facebook's bulletin platform, and I have a deal with Facebook there's money involved in that deal. And as part of that deal, I eventually have to start monetizing that newsletter. So. I got to figure that out. I've got about a year to do it. And right now I'm experimenting with the kinds of content with the newsletter and how do we grow the newsletter and what do people want from the newsletter?

And then eventually I will turn into some modifiable thing. And then once we do that, then we'll start to see what people want and we'll start to set some goals. But overall, I don't have it honestly, as strategic as your question is suggesting, and maybe that's to my detriment, but I have also always seen the personal brand thing to be something of a grand experiment that I'm doing on the side of a full-time job. And I figured, let me give myself the flexibility to explore and experiment and try new things, figure out why I'm doing them, what the value is of them. And eventually the picture will become clear enough that I know how to build from it. And that is the stage that I am in now.

Natasha:

I think that's a great answer to a question that I was really kind of burning to, like, what is Jason doing? What is he building? Are you going to build a team? Do you have aspirations to do X, Y, and Z? And you have the luxury of having a really great job.

Jason:

Yeah.

Natasha:

And starting this business on the side and being able to experiment and not a whole lot of entrepreneurs that I know do it that way.

They also don't have that much time. You have children, you have a wife you've moved across the country twice in the last two years. So much going on, but good for you for getting it all in there.

Jason:

So I'll tell you my philosophy on that, but keep going.

Natasha:

Well, I was just going to say it just kind of brought up to the, a lot of the questions I wanted to ask you.

You're not going to have answers for, because you don't need to have. Right now. And I just wondered as you were talking, what would that feel like? It feels pretty good. You get to be really creative.

Jason:

Uh, yeah, it, look, it feels good and bad, right? It feels good. And that I'm not adding undue pressure to myself.

It feels bad in that. I look at other people who have snapped it together better than me. And I say, why am I not doing the thing? Why am I doing that? Right. And you can't go comparing yourself like that. And so-

Natasha:

Those people aren't the editor-in-chief of a major publication.

Jason:

No, they're not that's general.

Natasha:

Let me just answer your question.

Jason:

I appreciate that. I didn't know what I was doing when I started this. I had a hunch about a year into being editor-in-chief of the magazine. And that was that I had an opportunity to build something. Around myself, because for the first time in my career, a career that was largely me being a writer or an editor.

People were treating me not like a journalist. People were treating me as a Thought Leader. That was just not a role. I knew how to inhabit it. Wasn't one that I was prepared for, but I would go out to events and I would realize that people don't understand what my job is. And they just think that I'm a guy who knows a lot. And at first I felt like I had to correct them, but then I realized, oh no, if I can be whatever on earth it is, they think I am. There's a great opportunity here. And then I had to figure out everything to get there. What am I to people? What is my narrative? What do I have to offer? They're asking me questions.

What are my answers to those questions? How do I relate to them? What do they want from me? What are the products that I have to offer them? How do I build this? You didn't know. And when people ask entrepreneurs, like number one question of beginner entrepreneurs, which is like, how do you get going? Right.

The answer of course, is that you just put something out into the world and then you see how people respond to it. And then you just learn from that and you adapt the product. I started doing that for myself.

Natasha:

I was just going to say, that's my start. Ugly. Just throw it out there. Perfection. Just don't even think about that excellence. That's something you strive for. Just start ugly. Throw it out there.

Jason:

Yeah. That's right. Reid Hoffman, "If you're not embarrassed by your first product launch, then you launched too late." Right. Just get it out there, do something. And so that's what I've just been doing with myself. I just decided to treat myself like product and figure out what on earth it was and adapt to my skills. It's like I came in with some raw material. Does that, I know how to write and edit. And I know what a storyteller, I know how to interview. I didn't really know how to write advice. I didn't know how to like pump people up.

Natasha:

Dear Abby and Hints from Heloise?

Jason:

Like advice from a dead start. If you were to read my editor's letter in the magazine, or if you read any of my Instagram or LinkedIn posts or whatever, right. It's this kind of writing that I was just completely unfamiliar with, which is that you just show up and you're like, here is a piece of advice, right? Like here's the thing.

There's no preamble. There's no like throat clearing. There's no way where somebody asked me the other day. And then I say, right, it's just like when you are doing. And that was just so unusual to me. I'd never done it. To the degree that I seen other people do it. I looked down upon it, but when I started to do it myself and I wouldn't say that I was good at it at first, but when I started.

I start hearing from people, people who really appreciated it, who found it useful in their lives. And that was kind of feedback that I just never got in any other kind of work that I had done. Right. Like I could spend months reporting some story and put it out into the world and hear crickets. And then I spend 20 minutes like banging out some piece of advice based on like some time management tip that I thought of in the shower.

These are usually things. I realized that like my sources of insight is a combination of what people are telling me and what I'm trying myself. Right. Let me be along the journey with you. I don't want to be the Tony Robbins figure who presents himself as some like guru that has all the answers. No, no, no, that's not for me. I am the person who is along the journey with you. I will share what I've learned and the perspective that I've had and lean into. This unfair advantage that I have compared to everyone else in this field, which is I get to talk to everybody. And I eventually, I just kind of figured out a mix and a tone that worked. I'm just building.

Natasha:

I'm just going to admit this out loud. I come from a family of journalists. I know how you're supposed to do it. You probably shouldn't say what I'm about to say, which is I'm a little nervous to ask you this.

Jason:

People say that. Yeah, I don't need to say that. What are you going to ask me?

Natasha:

No, but I think it's important. Just say out loud cause do what scares you. I just want an article about singing the national Anthem at the giants for 40,000 people do what scares you. Okay. I'm going to set it up for you. Okay.

You're very smart and articulate. I've met you in person a couple of times. You've been very kind.

You've been very helpful. I've seen you on stage speaking. You're an excellent speaker. I've learned from you that it's mostly off the cuff and you're gathering five minute stories and increments. So I know you, I know you from my advantage. I pitched to you, you years ago, and you were so kind with a very long email explaining what your magazine is looking for, and basically why you weren't going to take a pitch from me.

I really appreciate it. And recently I've been seeing a lot of posts from you where I was like, oh my God, that could have been me. You posts, right?

Jason:

I post a lot of emails that people send me. I block out the names, any identifying information. Absolutely.

Natasha:

You're so kind. And you're so giving, and then you are just skewering people.

So I'm wondering if you do this on purpose to take a polarizing stance, right? If you don't stand for one thing, you don't stand for anything. Is it just an element of your personality that I've missed getting to know you. And then I'm wondering, why does this bothers me so much? And it has to do with my own ego right with, oh my God. That could have been me and still to this day, no matter how successful, how long I've been in business, how wise I am, I could make one of those mistakes and end up on somebody's social media posts. And no one's going to recognize it. I would die if I ended up there. So speak to that.

Jason:

Sure. Yes. That is a thing that I have been doing for awhile now. And I can tell you the origin of it possibly you were there, but it has-

Natasha:

Doesn't have to do with that.

Jason:

It has nothing to do with you. It doesn't have anything to even catch, which I don't even remember. We met at Two Twelve.

Natasha:

I actually met you in LA at your Entrepreneur Festival,

Jason:

But then you went Two Twelve because you heard of it from me. Right.

Natasha:

Exactly.

Jason:

So that means that you were not at the first Two Twelve because you couldn't make that. Okay. Right. So you weren't there, but you were at a subsequent events. So Two Twelve is this very small event actually run by the guys from Penn name podcasts has turned into just an infomercial for them, but-

Natasha:

Wait, I'm gonna black out their name or bleeped them. I'm totally kidding. I was going to say Adam loves you.

Jason:

Yeah, Jordan Adam, anyway, Two Twelve, is this great event it's like very intimate. There's no like big speeches on stage. It's all of these kind of quote unquote mentorship sessions where you sit around and rooms. Anyways, so the very first year that I was there, I was not editor-in-chief Washburn magazine.

I was executive editor of entrepreneur magazine, which is the second in command. This was pre the time where I had really grappled. The thought leader thing that I was just describing a minute ago, I was a mentor, quite a mentor at this event, which meant that I would sit in a room and small groups of people would come in and they would say, Back then, because I hadn't figured out my whole personal brand thing.

I really had only one value to entrepreneurs and that value was media. I can explain the media to you or explain how to pitch media to you. And so that's what all my sessions were about. People were coming in and they were saying. Well pitching and somebody asked me as always somebody who does it's very common.

How do I pitch the media question? Somebody asked me about subject lines, right? What's the right subject line for an email, for a pitch. And the answer, by the way, there's no magic formula. There's no answer to that. And I was trying to answer it. And it was probably the third time somebody had asked me that day and you know, there's just no good answer to it.

So I'm sort of dancing around and then I thought, do you guys just want to see my inbox? You just want to see what people are sending me and everybody in the room sat up. Right. They're all like, "Yes!" I pulled out my phone. Right. And I opened my inbox and I just start reading out subject lines and everyone was riveted.

And this was a fascinating moment to me because of course my inbox doesn't feel very special to me. My inbox is like a stupid thing that I have to deal with throughout the day. But to all these people in this room, my inbox was this magical place because it was full of examples of what other people were doing to try to reach somebody like me.

And I could tell you what was good and what was not good. And they found that. I took that insight on the road. The first keynote that I ever gave that I gave a number of times was about how to get press for your business. Because again, this was like the one thing I felt like I had to offer. So you saw as part of this talk, I put up on this big screen, five examples from my inbox, uh, you know, again, blocked out, but, and then I talk about why they're smarter, not smart, and the crowd loves it.

They just love it every time it's a big hit. And so I just realized I have a weird asset. And that is my inbox. And whenever I talk about it, people are interested and yes, it makes some people nervous and it makes some people like overthink whenever they reach out to me. But by and large people just really love it.

It is a differentiator in the marketplace of ideas. Anybody can write a time management tip. Hopefully my time management tips are as smart as anybody's, but only I can share the inbox from the editor-in-chief of entrepreneur magazine. I do see that occasionally upsets people.

Natasha:

I'm wondering what kind of feedback. I can imagine a lot of people are like, "oh my God, that's so great." And some people might be like, "Why are you doing that?" That's mean.

Jason:

It's very interesting. It is of my followers. It is almost a hundred percent positive. People love it, love it. Right. So much so that I made a series called Inbox Monday out of it that I would post on stories.

Every Monday I have found intriguingly that on LinkedIn, when I do it on LinkedIn and the post stays within my own followers. I have like 30,000 followers or something on LinkedIn when the post is mostly read by my followers. And then occasionally one of those posts will blow up in a way that can happen on LinkedIn and suddenly it's reaching exponentially more people.

And then it starts to get a little more mixed because now people are experiencing it out of context. Right. They don't know me. They may not even spend the time to like, see who I am. And they don't know that this is a regular thing that I do. And they don't know that I'm not trying to be mean-spirited about it.

I always use it as a lesson. I'm sharing, these things. So I can give you the person who's reading it, insights on how to pitch yourself better, not just immediate, but in any way, how do you communicate better? That's the point of all this, but people will miss that when it's one-off and it's kind of out of context.

And so then I'll see that as the post gathers more steam, it starts to get a few more negative comments, which of course then just enable it to gather even more steam. And, you know, it's interesting, but you know, I feel like it has never dissuaded me from doing. Because it's so distinct. People know it.

I'm not outing anybody. I'm not embarrassing. Anybody. I never ever share anybody's any inkling of who could be pitching me. I block out every identifiable word. And so I hope that people don't take it to be mean-spirited. And my general brand is to be extremely positive and helpful. But there is a part of my brand that is also direct, right?

I don't want to beat around the bush. I'm not going to give you platitudes. I want to be helpful. I want to be optimistic. I want to be direct. And so that comes from that direct part and it's worked for me, but it's true. It's a conversation starter.

Natasha:

We heard a lot of juicy insight about Jason's entrepreneurial endeavors, his strategy for getting people to buy his book and the freedom to explore his opportunities for more information.

Please go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast.

Want to know more about me, go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast. Now I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Jason Feifer Profile Photo

Jason Feifer

editor in chief, Entrepreneur

Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and host of the podcast Build For Tomorrow.