The journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur is not easy. That is why you need to believe in the work you are doing so you can see through the challenges. Listen in this episode as Ab DeWeese shares his success story, from a small town beginning to one of the world’s foremost experts and proven entrepreneurs in Aerospace, Defense and Medical Device Software Automation. Tune in to learn how he went through the ups and downs of his entrepreneurial journey and gain some insights on sales, money attitude, and more.
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Ab DeWeese From Philadelphia, MS To Software Automation Proven Entrepreneur
I am so excited for this episode’s guest. He is a close friend of mine and somewhat neighbor. We live within 10 miles of each other. In this episode, I have Ab DeWeese. He is a husband, father, founder, and non-executive chairman of Good Automation, which is a software automation company. He is a proven entrepreneur in the flesh. He retired at 37 years of age. He still owns a business and is still an entrepreneur, but Ab does not donate his time to his business. He invests his time in his life and his business allows him to do that. Ab, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Don. I appreciate the opportunity and the invite to join you on the show.
Thank you. I’m so excited about what you’re going to share with us. Let’s jump right in. I want you to think all the way back to young Ab, 5 to 25. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? Did you go to school? Tell us about young Ab.
I grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi. If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, drive south until you hit I-20, and hang a left. Eight hours later, you’ll be in a little place called Forest. Hang another left, go north about half an hour and you’re in Philadelphia, Mississippi. When I graduated high school, I graduated in a class of 66 people. We did have stoplights. You hear people talk about, “I grew up and there’s a stop sign.” We did have stoplights but only 66 people were in my graduating class. It’s this little bitty town out in the middle of nowhere with good manners and a good Southern upbringing.
I know Zig Ziglar was from Yazoo City, Mississippi. Philadelphia, Mississippi can’t be nowhere because it’s somewhere in retrospect to Yazoo City. How far away from Yazoo City is Philadelphia?
I don’t know. Maybe 2 hours to 2.5 hours or something like that. Because we’re talking about Mississippi, the Mississippi accent is going to sneak through. I’ll apologize in advance. Yazoo City is a little more of the Jackson. I haven’t spent much time there, but my little brother lived in Yazoo City for about 3 or 4 years.
I love the South. I went to New Orleans. I had some charbroiled oysters, red beans and rice. Take us back.
I graduated high school. I went to a place called Hinds Community College. It’s a little junior college outside of Jackson. It’s an interesting setup because it’s the only community college that I’m aware of that has dormitories and on-campus life. I lived on campus at this little two-year school. I was able to satisfy my need for independence very early on because I had a full scholarship. I was able to get a little bit of income from scholarships that exceeded tuition. I was able to be at Hinds and walk onto the soccer team. They were nice enough to let me sit on the bench most of the season. I can name drop that I played soccer in college.
I did that for a year and I was like, “I think there’s a bigger world out there.” I bought a one-way ticket to Vail, Colorado. I had a place to live but not a job when I landed. I probably got fired from five different places. When you talk to entrepreneurs, it tends to be a hallmark. They are not very good employees. I was a busboy. I did this and that work. I worked at the ski lifts for a little bit in the summer. I found my strides in my first ever sales job as an ego-stroking luggage monkey, which is the technical term for a bag boy or a bell boy at a hotel. I worked at the Lion Square Lodge where I can ski in and ski out right off of the slopes at Lion Square Village, which is part of Vail.If you have the attitude that things just work out for you and you show up and expect things to work out for you, they will work out for you. Click To Tweet
I was a bellhop and I got to ski every day. Even on the days when I had to work a real shift from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM, technically, but you could get off at 2:00 PM if the other guy came in early. I’m going to go get a few runs in. I skied every day. I got over 100 days of skiing in. I had never skied. I’m not some avid skier. I just loved living in the Vail Valley for two summers and two winters. It was a defining, amazing and wonderful time in my life. I always wanted to go to college and study Physics. I was fascinated by Physics and Math my whole life.
When I finally decided to go to school, I picked the closest school possible to Vail. I did not even look for a great Physics school or Engineering school. I looked at the University of Colorado and Colorado State. The University of Colorado, they call it CU, is in Boulder and was about a half-hour closer to Vail so I picked that one. I didn’t even know about the School of Mines which has a great Engineering program. If I had known of that, I would have gone there because it’s another half hour closer to Vail.
I think college counselors all across the country probably do that a little differently.
They probably do. They probably have a different checklist that they go from.
I want to ask a question about the bellman at the hotel in Vail. I’m guessing your salary was fairly modest.
At that time, the minimum wage was $5.25 an hour which is what I made, but it was all about cash tips. Tip your bellmen, if you’re reading this.
Was that your first step into the world of selling?
While $5.25 is shabby, how were your tips?
$100-day is a decent day. It’s a solid day. A $200-day is the days that you’re pushing forward. You want the Saturday shifts and the Friday shifts to get those $250-days in tips. That was good. I went back and looked at it. I think I made maybe $40,000 or $50,000 in 1999, 2000 and 2001 with no degree. That’s not bad.
It sounds to me like you were romancing your customer before I even came out with the book.
Just a little bit because that’s why it’s a sales job, Don. You have to romance that customer, make them feel amazing and wonderful about this experience. Tell them all about how great the mountain, the village and the nightlife are. It’s all about sharing your enthusiasm so that you’re continuing to validate the decision that they made to come and spend a lot of their hard-earned money on the amenities, the slopes and whatnot. You’re selling the experience, romancing that customer, and making them feel good about the purchase. That is directly proportional to the amount of tips that you receive.
As we all know, it’s all about the customer all the time. I love how you selected your school. More college freshmen should maybe consider criteria like that.
It was that and then coming out of Vail, it was 6 to 1, men to women. You see all these pretty little girls walking around the campus and you’re like, “I think I like it here.” When I got there, this is a recurring theme in my life, I found that I stumbled into the perfect place. Not only is it gorgeous and beautiful. It has got this amazing architecture and the mountains are wonderful.
It turns out it is one of the best Physics institutions in the nation. At the time, they had two Nobel laureates. The last time I checked, they had four Nobel laureates. Getting a Nobel Prize in Physics is a big deal. It’s the pinnacle of any physicist’s career to win a Nobel Prize and they had four of them. They had a phenomenal Physics program and I stumbled into it because it was close to the mountains, but my passion was to study Physics and ski.
There’s a lot of that because you continue to do that while you’re in school. I proceeded to study Physics at CU. I met a pretty girl who was in Engineering school. I thought she was beautiful, fun, funny, brilliant and smart. I ended up dating her the whole time. I asked her to marry me and she said yes. That was my second sales job. We had a long engagement. She and I lived together for a year in Denver and she got a job at Lockheed in Fort Worth. I quit, followed her down and I found a job. It’s the second time in my life that I moved to a place where I had a place to live before I had a place to work. It’s minor details but things just work out for me.You can sell anything you believe in. Click To Tweet
Why do you think things just work out for you?
It’s because I have the attitude that things just work out for me. If you have the attitude that things will work out for you, you show up, and you expect things to work out for you, they will work out for you. If you have the attitude that things aren’t going to work out for you, you show up and you think they’re not going to work out for you, they’re probably not going to work out for you. It’s all in your mindset.
Isn’t it amazing how we manifest our visions? If we expect things to go well, not every time maybe, but they generally do. If we expect things to go poorly, they do. Maybe not every time but they do. It’s so important to have the right objects and destinations in your vision. That’s where you’re headed to.
There’s an interesting corollary. One of my favorite things about you, Don, is your myopic focus on gratitude and appreciation. To me, it’s along the same lines. If you constantly focus your brain and your experience on the things that you’re grateful for, you will have a wonderful and happy existence. It’s so delightfully simple. There are a lot of similarities in that to the thing that you said. One of the things that I admire and enjoy about you is your relentless emphasis on being grateful for things. It’s so cool.
It has changed my life and I’ve seen it change many lives. Anyhow, this is not about me. This is about you. You met a beautiful young woman and you somehow someway convinced her to marry you. I’m still somewhat shocked and now you’ve been married several years. You have children and a lovely family. She’s still there. You’re doing something right.
I haven’t messed it up yet. In fact, there’s a part in the story that’s maybe a chapter or second in the future, but there was a time when we worked together and we’re still married.
That’s an accomplishment for some people. Thanks for filling us in on Philadelphia, Mississippi to Vail to Boulder. You followed a girl to Fort Worth and married her. Now you live in the burbs of Fort Worth. As you guys know, Fort Worth is the major city in North Central Texas. You’ve maybe heard of the suburb that’s about 30 miles East, a little town called Dallas. Ab lives dead smack in the middle of the two. When you came to Fort Worth, did you start a company on day one?
I think so and I do live in Tarrant County. I live on the correct side of the airport, the dividing line. Fort Worth is 2/3 of DFW. It’s basic math. We landed in Northwestern Hills and ran it for a year because that was close to Lockheed, which was down at White Settlement on Southwest Fort Worth. I wanted to be able to target the whole Metroplex. That was close enough to hit it. I ended up getting a job in Addison within 24 hours of posting a resume online and announcing that I was interested in working in this obscure language called LabVIEW, which I’m head over heels in love with.
I got recruited for a job interview. I went in and did the interview. Looking back on it, I didn’t know. I went in with a ton of confidence. I winged and aced it because I was so genuinely excited about the job. You can’t fabricate that. You talked about Zig Ziglar. I believe in Zig and I can sell anything I believe in, but there’s a very important precondition. I have to believe in it. If you believe in it and you genuinely think it’s going to help people, all you have to do is share your excitement and enthusiasm, and they’ll buy.
If the thing that you’re selling is you, if you believe in yourself and you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the value that you can provide to your employer and you communicate that to them, they are going to hire you. I got this job and I couldn’t believe that people would pay me to write LabVIEW. There’s a certain subset of engineers that stumbled onto this programming language called LabVIEW and they fall in love with it. I would stay at work late at night doing it just because it was so much fun.
I couldn’t believe that somebody would pay me to do this full-time as a career. I worked at this small engineering consultant company called VI Technology for about 4, 5 years or so. About halfway through, they got acquired. It’s a typical case study where a big company acquires a small company and mismanages it. They have a brain drain and all their people leave. If you buy a services company and all the people leave, what did you buy?
It was bought by Aeroflex. I worked at VI Tech and at some point, you could see the writing on the wall. All the senior people were leaving. One guy exited and the other guy was on his way out. You’re like, “I should probably move.” There were two things I wanted in my next job. I wanted to see what it was like to work at a big company. I didn’t know what I was going to learn at a big company because this other company was pretty small. I knew that I would learn some big company things. I just thought that it was an important thing to experience.
The other thing was I wanted to be in the healthcare industry. I was seeking out a job in the medical devices industry because I thought, “There’s something here.” There are a lot of zeitgeists around medical devices around health insurance, the aging population and healthcare. I was like, “I want to be a part of that. There’s something cool there. That’s a way to help people. I can make money and help people by learning how to deliver healthcare. I can bring my own brand of physics and engineering. That’s the way I can contribute there.”
I got a call from a recruiter at St. Jude Medical. She was like, “I know you’re happy in your job and you don’t want to leave.” I was like, “I love it.” I was able to get pulled out of there and recruited into St. Jude. I proceeded to fall flat on my face navigating big company politics. I remember I was there for about a month and I was Mr. Go-Getter. Somebody asked me to do this thing. I wrote an email and I copied two directors that were two levels above me. I’m like, “You go to this and call me back.” I didn’t realize that they both got terribly offended because I told these guys what to do. I got the stupid knocked out of me a little bit in big company land.
When I was at St. Jude, they made Class III implantable medical devices. They make what’s called IPGs, Implantable Pulse Generators. It was like a pacemaker for pain. It was a neat and amazing business. They’re on the brink of making that one irrevocable decision. In some cases, they are contemplating suicide because the physical pain they deal with is unbearable. They have tried everything, surgeries and drugs. They get our device implanted in them. You have these electrical signals that are sent to the spinal cord that interrupt the pain signals. It gives people their lives back. It’s a super moving and amazing thing to be a part of.
They also have this other product line called deep brain stimulation. I like to tell this with a little bit of flare. They implant the device by your pectoral muscle and then they run the electrical leads that run up your neck and your skull. They drill two holes in your head and they stick these electrical leads down into your brain. They plug the holes up and go away. You now have this thing in your chest that can stimulate signals in your brain. They put these things in Parkinson’s patients and it is the most amazing thing. I saw this live on one Parkinson’s patient who had had the device implanted. He came and presented at an all-hands meeting to share how impactful and important the work that we were doingLife is short. And if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. Click To Tweet
I’ll never forget. He stood up. The guy couldn’t even stand up on his own. He had two canes and he said, “Now, I’m going to turn my device on.” He would turn it on and he could walk. It turned off Parkinson’s disease. You take someone who has a terminal illness and you can give them ten years of usable life where he can be a person that can get up and move around. This is an amazing and wonderful place to be working on these life-changing devices. I got to learn firsthand what it means to interact with the US Food and Drug Administration.
I’m guessing maybe that was a little less inspiring than dealing with patients whose lives were totally transformed from devastation to more normalcy.
You have spoken like a true entrepreneur. As it happens, you opened the door to something I’m very passionate about communicating. When I went into St. Jude, I came in and I was like, “I’m going to come into here and show these guys how it’s done. I’m going to break out my scimitar and slice through the red tape. We’re going to move fast. I don’t want to hear anything about all this bureaucracy and FDA stuff. I’m like, “I don’t have time for that. I’m from a small company. I’m going to show these guys how we move and get things done.”
Over a period of about two years, I slowly began to appreciate the enormous importance of what the FDA does. As I left St. Jude, I have the most profound and deep respect for the FDA. I think it is one of the most important institutions in the world, not just in the US because it is the most rigorous and the hardest. The FDA sets a standard for medical device compliance the world over.
There was this guy, Zach Wright. He is a Quality Engineer. He pulled me aside one day and said, “This validation thing, this is what it means. This is why it’s important.” He showed it to me and I was like, “I could see how it’s important. You’re telling me that the medical device needs to be safe and effective for its intended use because you don’t want to hurt people or kill them. You want to help them.” The Hippocratic Oath says, “First, do no harm.” It’s got to be safe and effective for its intended use.
There’s this path from that statement all the way down to this engineering work that you don’t want to do, but it turns out that the engineering work is really important because it’s part of making sure that when this thing goes into your grandmother, it’s safe and effective. I was then able to zoom out and look at all the FDA regulations and the FDA oversight. I was able to see and appreciate an elegant brilliance in the way that the thing is structured. Everything is statistically governed and as a software engineer, I was able to see it very much like this big meta software program that is set up to govern the industry.
The job of the company is to make safe and effective medical devices. The job of the people is to set up the company so that it can fulfill that. I came with this deep and profound respect for what the FDA does and why it’s important to respect its authority. You probably know this as a business owner, an employer and as a parent. You have to have rules, but if you don’t enforce your rules, then your rules aren’t meaningful. I could tell my kids to clean up the room but at some point, they’re going to challenge me. I got to take them to the mat and be like, “No, you have to do it. There are consequences.” Unfortunately, that’s one of the things the FDA has to do. They have to enforce the stuff that they do, but it’s for an important reason because they protect the US population from people who would otherwise sell things that are unsafe and ineffective.
I want to challenge the group. Elegant brilliance, I want to challenge you to apply that to your business and to your life. I appreciate the wordsmithing and applying it to a Federal agency. The elegant brilliance of the FDA. It’s obvious that your heart is in your business first and your business is in your business second.
To that end, if I may quantum leap over to the side a little bit, a lot of the readers have probably heard of the book Traction. They have probably heard of this thing called EOS. Some people have probably tried to implement it themselves. Maybe they’ve succeeded. Some people maybe have hired implementers. I highly recommend hiring a third-party implementer. It’s so much easier when you’re not the guy trying to champion it. You just get to be one of the people that’s doing it together, but you get this thing called core values.
Everybody has heard of core values, but you may not know what they are. They’re essentially a way to articulate who you are. One of our core values is enginerd. We build log cabins together. Those are our three core values. We don’t build castles and space-age houses. We build good old-fashioned log cabins. We build what the customer needs. It’s not necessarily what they asked for and not what the sales guy wants to sell them. We build what they need and we do it together but in our heart, we’re enginerds.
By embracing that, everything became easy. We put that on our website. We put that in our marketing collateral. We got a stroke of genius about how social media marketing for my company is going to become child’s play and fun. We decided to create a good automation meme machine. We’re going to grab a bunch of awesome, hilarious, super nerdy software, engineering and electronics memes and create memes with little short videos around this to be nerdy, funny, fresh, vibrant and approachable.
Our target audience is going to relish the content because they’re going to laugh at everyone. It’s going to be funny, a little inside wink and a nod, nerd jokes and nerd humor. We’re going to have fun creating them. It will be easy. It will be second nature. The audience will gratefully consume the content. Meanwhile, my brand is going to be imprinted in their brain every time they see the meme.
As you know, whether you’re selling submarine sandwiches or submarines to the United States Navy, things need to be easy, simple and fun.
Your customer should have fun. As you said, it’s on two sides. It should be easy, simple and fun for your customer. It should be easy, simple and fun for you because life is short. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Everybody will say, “I got lucky.” I hear people say, “I got lucky in my business.” I’m like, “Don’t give me a bunch of BS. I know you worked hard. Stand up and be a man. Take credit for it.” I did work hard to get to where I am, but I did have a stroke of luck because there was one person on Earth that I would have trusted to run my business. His name is Tik Sze. He’s the CEO of Good Automation. He is a guy I’ve known and worked with for over a decade. I worked with him at VI Tech. He is a phenomenal and brilliant manager. He is ten times the manager I’ll ever be.
I recruited him for about four years, from the day I started my company until I finally got him. We know each other so well and we know the industry. We can communicate ten pages of information in three words because we connect so well. Because I knew him and I trusted him, I would have considered two other people, but him being on the top of the list easily. There were two guys that I would have trusted at the helm, but Tik was easily at the top of the list and I got him. It was very much a big piece of luck because had I not brought in Tik, I could not see the next thing, which is what you alluded to earlier. I was able to retire at 37.
I’m able to get all of my time back and focus on what I want to do. I have a little story for other entrepreneurs about my journey doing that. It begins with Napoleon Hill and the book Think and Grow Rich. If you haven’t read it, stop whatever book you’re reading unless it’s Romancing Your Customer. Put it down and read Think and Grow Rich. It will rock your world and change your life. The first time I read it, I was afraid of it and put it down. Two years later, I picked it up and finished it.Money's not the problem. It's when money has you. Click To Tweet
It’s the book that calls me to quit my job and start my business. The book forced me to envision an outcome that in five years, I want to have my time back and I want to have mailbox money. I want to get my time back and be financially independent. I want to be able to apply myself to the things I’m passionate about. I set up a five-year plan. Because I did that and I envisioned it, at year four and a half, I was able to retire from my company. I have a management team run it and get all my time back.
There’s a darker shade to the story. It’s not bleak but for about a period of two years at 37, 38, 39 looking back on it, I realized I was pretty depressed having left my company. Everything that was my identity, a big piece of who I was and what I did, I walked away from that. I had to reinvent myself and my purpose. I wandered in the proverbial desert for about two years, not knowing who I was and not having a purpose. I was wandering aimlessly, even though I had a tree that achieved this dream of dreams. I cracked the code. I don’t have to work anymore. That is a fact. That is a statement. I don’t have to work anymore. It’s what everybody shoots for. I got there and what I found was it was desolate and the lack of happiness.
Many times we see an entrepreneur who is on their first successful exit, and they feel adrift with no purpose and no goal. There is nothing to strive for. There is no resistance. Many times, entrepreneurs’ performance is at their very best when there is some resistance, something to push against. When things get too easy, sometimes things don’t go so well. It was awesome that you shared that. Please go on.
You gave me some insight listening to that because I need something to lean into. If I don’t have a strong wind to lean into it, when I lean, I fall over. I’ve got big sales so I lean way in. When that wind is not there, it’s a little wobbly. To that end, I refound my purpose. Kevin Bonfield, thank you for changing my life. If you haven’t heard of EO, go join EO.
What is EO? Let’s tell everybody.
EO is hard to explain. Justice Stephen Breyer defined this thing that you know when you see it or you understand when you do it. EO is very difficult to articulate from the outside, but once you experience it, you can’t go back. It’s highly addictive. For me personally, I was adrift in an ocean alone. My entire entrepreneurial career started in 2013 even before I left my company. Looking back on it, I now realize I was very lonely. I had friends and other people I’ve connected to, but I didn’t connect with them in the same way because we don’t have the same high-class problems.
As a business owner, you have all these first-world problems. It’s hard to connect and deal with real legitimate problems that you’re dealing with. The people that are empathetic and trying to be there for you don’t have any context for what that thing is. When you walk into an event in EO, you walk into a room of 50 people like you. They also all have the same version of crazy. We all have that same version of crazy. We’re all type-A, self-starters, get going. We’re all positively minded. We love making money. Nobody is ashamed to be like, “I love making money.” There is nothing wrong with making money. The lack of money is the root of all evil. It’s all about helping people and making money and having fun. Have fun, help people and make money.
It’s like what Zig said, “Having money is not the problem. It’s when money has you.” That’s the problem. EO stands for Entrepreneurs’ Organization and it’s a tribe of about almost 15,000 people all across the globe in 60 countries who hang out together, learn from each other, share experiences, and go to events sometimes with 50 people and sometimes with 2,500 people. It’s all about promoting entrepreneurship.
I know Ab and he knows me because we met in EO. We’ve had many adventures since and many more to come. One of the biggest benefits is being around your tribe, people who can put into context what you’re going through. We love our neighbors and our friends that are not entrepreneurs but the entrepreneur tribe, we are our own people to an extent.
If I could add to that, to me some of the magic of EO is there are a couple of rules. One of the rules is confidentiality, which means that you don’t blab about what you hear. The other side of that is everybody agrees to not blab about what they hear, which means that I can say things and I know that they’re not going to leave. It creates the safety for me to say things. The other thing that’s amazing and precious about EO is the non-solicitation rules. Don, do you like to sell things?
If I’m breathing, I’m generally selling.
Me too. How do you know an entrepreneur is pitching? The answer is his lips are moving. You’re in this room with all these business owners and people who love to share their enthusiasm to sell things. There’s a non-solicitation rule in EO. If somebody is like, “Join EO but you can’t sell anything. There are all these business owners, a target-rich environment but you can’t sell anything.” “You’re telling me you’re going to pay a bunch of money to join this group with a target-rich environment and I can’t sell them anything. Why would I want to do that?”
It turns out that if you can’t sell and nobody can sell, it means when you walk in the room, you’re not going to get sold. That means that I can let my guard down. I don’t have to hold back information because this guy is going to try to like spin it and use it against me. I’m not going to always look over my shoulder if this guy is trying to pitch me something or sell me something. It creates this safe place. There’s no solicitation and no selling. Does business get done in EO though? Does business find a way to transact and happen somehow?
People don’t sell, but people do buy. If you’ve been through any of my training or my events, you know that in my Sales Magic Course, one of the keystones is to stop selling and let people buy. I’ve been doing that now for many years. All my life people have said, “You are a great salesperson.” Even now, I don’t know if that’s true. I do know that people love to buy from me so I just let them. I don’t know about the great salesman title or the great saleswoman title, but if you treat people right and you romance your customer and your pre-customer, you’ll never lack for new business.
I am head over heels with EO. You’re right because if you go in there, share your enthusiasm and genuinely help people, they somehow end up buying it. EO brings that. My favorite thing about EO, Don, you are the first place that I heard this word from. I don’t know if you’re the one that coined it, but this notion of instimacy.
It was Dave Galbenski from Detroit, Michigan.Happy equals what you have divided by what you want. Click To Tweet
I met Dave at a virtual event. It’s amazing because you walk into these rooms where EO trains you. You are subjected to the training. You will learn the protocol but the thing is I know we’re not compliant, but if you just comply, follow and trust the process, learn the tools and techniques for communicating what they teach you and how to do this thing called Forum, which is like Fight Club. The first rule about a Forum is don’t talk about the Forum. It’s hard to know what it is until you’re in it. They teach you this way of interacting and it creates this magical ability to connect. You can meet any EO from anywhere on the globe and it’s an instant very deep connection.
You get each other and you now got a friend in every city. I can’t get enough of EO. It’s magical and wonderful. Don, one of the things I would love to go back to is this notion that I claimed earlier that I cracked the code in terms of retiring at 37. There’s something more to share there that touches on something you said. There is an equation for happiness. Do you know the equation for happiness? The equation for happiness is very simple. I saw this years ago and it took a long time to set in. It goes like this. Happy equals what you have divided by what you want.
If you have more than you want, you’re happy. If you want more than you have, you’re not happy. If the things that you have stay constant and you want a whole lot more, your happiness generally goes down. If the things that you have stay constant and you want a lot less. You become content with your life, your things, your relationship and your situation. Your happiness tends to increase. Conversely, if you keep your wants the same and the things that you have like your relationships, house, money or whatever tend to increase, your happiness tends to grow.
If the things that you want to stay the same, and your resources and relationships are pulled away from you, your happiness is inversely proportional to that. Happiness is what you have divided by what you want. T
he magic is there and the part that’s so hard to grasp is that it’s very easy to focus on what you have, but it’s so much more effective to focus on what you want. You have more control over what you want than over what you have. There is a book called The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman. It was a reference book of business concepts. One of them was the notion of sufficiency. He defines sufficiency and writes two pages on it.
I want to ask you because I wonder if I heard that backwards or maybe it was said backwards. It’s a very important part. “I have more control over what I want than what I have.” That’s probably counterintuitive to what people think. People think they can control what they currently have and have less control over what they want.
It is counterintuitive. You would think, “I’m powerless over what I want,” but if you stop and analyze that statement, who has control over what you want? If anybody does, who does? You do. Who has control over what I want? I do. Who has control of what I have? As an entrepreneur who can do anything that he wants to do, he can create the future and make things happen, I can have control of what I have. That’s not true, Don.
If we’re talking about physical things, I either have to buy them or they have to be given to me. If it’s relationships, it takes two to tango. I can relate to someone else all day long but if they don’t relate back to me, we don’t have a relationship. I have responsibility for my relationships. My wife, for example, can’t control what I want. It’s up to me to figure that out and to have the discipline of establishing that baseline.
It’s what you actually desire. It’s not necessarily the appropriation of that but the actual desire itself.
What is enough? I read this little vignette or this little two pages about sufficiency. It talked about it from a business standpoint, but it forced me to stop and think, what is sufficient? What is enough? What do I want? When I started my business, I was able to realize that there were certain things I refuse to give up. We refuse to give up on the quality of childcare. We took our kids to a daycare center close to our house that I was head over heels in love with. It wasn’t the cheapest one but that was something we were not going to sacrifice. There were other things that we could sacrifice on.
That analysis helped me realize, “I can afford to take this much risk. I can walk away from a perfectly good salary and take this leap.” Another similar analysis happened when I was 37. I realized that I could stay in my business and I could continue working 100-hour weeks. I could continue burning out myself and burning out my employees. I could continue driving and pushing and I could grow my business.
What I realized is that this thing that I had was enough. It is magical and amazing. The amount of free cashflow that I got from my business is equal to a good salary. It’s not mega but it’s a good salary and it’s enough. I can pay my mortgage and we can do crazy nice things. I have enough. I have a suburban lifestyle. I don’t have a Beverly Hills lifestyle, but it’s enough.
I could stay in the business, grow the business and grind or I could be satisfied with what I have. I can make what I want to match what I have and be satisfied with that. More than anything, that freed me and allowed me to walk away from my business. When other business owners asked me, “What are your growth strategies for your company?” They’re always dumbfounded when I say, “I don’t care. I don’t want my company to grow. I want it to stay just like this. I want it to not go down.”
Before COVID, I was worried that there was a recession around the corner. I told my team, “We’re going to grow so that when the recession happens, we’ll go back to this.” That’s what we did. Year over year, the revenue change has been zero. The revenue has been flat year to year. It’s a super stable and consistent business. It is exactly what I want. I could go apply myself to the business and grow it but that’s not what I want. I love hanging out with my kids. I love having the freedom of time and flexibility.
My challenge to the audience would be to take a really tough hard look and think about what do you want? What is enough? Draw the line. You can always get more. There’s always more. Getting more is easier. Deciding what you want and drawing a line of where enough is, is the hardest decision you’ll ever make. Once you do, you’ll find that the happiness that comes with it is proportionately huge.
A good friend, Warren Rustand. He talks about clarity of vision. Where do you want to go? Many times in the world, when we say success, they instantly translate that to financial success. It’s dollars. Do you have that Beverly Hills lifestyle? Are you on lifestyles of the rich and famous? We had two people in the last century that were the wealthiest people in the world at the time, Howard Hughes and Aristotle Onassis, who on their death beds were still spending their time and their life’s energy making more money. Probably for the average entrepreneur, it seems little out there because we’re looking for the perfect balance, however we define that, of our life, our business and our families. It sounds like you know your vision. You have clarity and that’s your success story.
I am so grateful and happy to now be chasing with relentless pursuit something I’ve been passionate about and interested in my entire life. The end of the story is the beginning of the next chapter, which I did at the last minute. The way that I did it was I showed up and did it because I wanted it to happen. Things worked out for me. I enrolled in grad school at UTA, University of Texas Arlington. I’m pursuing a PhD in Physics. I enrolled four days before class started because that’s the only way to do it. I feel so good because I’ve got a headwind to lean into now and it is a fierce headwind and I love it.
I relish the challenge, the focus, the pursuit and the hunt. It’s only possible because I was able to clarify what was enough and what was sufficient from a lifestyle standpoint that I can now go fulfill my deep purpose in life. A huge thank you to Kevin Bonfield for the eccentric event that he put on that helped me confront and realize that I needed to start acting. If I was going to leave my legacy, I had to do it by design and be intentional about it. Tanks to EO for that.
There is certainly some brilliant elegance there. We’re about out of time, Ab. Let me ask you how the Proven Entrepreneur clan could support you? Is there anything we could do for you?
That is the nicest question and it caught me off guard. I guess to have fun, help people and make money, which doesn’t do anything for me but it does a lot for you. The other answer would be to join EO, which does a lot for me because I love EO and it makes the organization stronger to have the audience in, but it also helps you more than it helps me. Join EO and reach out. My cell phone number and email are on the global database. Cold-call me. I love meeting new people.
Have fun, help people, make money, and take a look at EO. Ab, thank you so much for sharing your success story on the show.
Thank you, Don. I appreciate you having me.
- Good Automation
- Think and Grow Rich
- Romancing Your Customer
- Sales Magic Course
- The Personal MB
About Ab DeWeese
Ab and Good Automation were great to work with. Ab is the type of person who does not let any challenge get in the way of success. For him, there is always a way. His energy and drive are among the strongest that I have ever encountered.