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Welcome to episode #14 of The Morning Upgrade Podcast. Today, I’m talking with Aaron Walker, the creator of Iron Sharpens Iron, my mastermind group. He’s a successful entrepreneur and a life and business coach that has brought men together from across the US to build a community.

Top Talking Points

  • Relationships help in the success of businesses, and how you can use relationships to further your endeavors.
  • The most effective way to read books and retain more information.
  • The importance of leaving your phone off during the morning.

Resources & Links

Share Link For This Episode

Connect with Aaron on his website View From The Top

Find The Books Mentioned on Kindle or Audible

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

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Episode Transcript

Announcer:

Welcome to the Morning Upgrade Podcast with Ryan Cote, where we feature casual conversations with entrepreneurs about personal development and growth.

Ryan Cote:

Hey everyone, this is Ryan Cote with the morning upgrade podcast. Today I have with me Aaron Walker, and this is a special episode for me because Aaron runs the mastermind that I’ve been part of for the last two years called Iron Sharpens Iron. And this isn’t a sales pitch for the mastermind, but I will say that over the last two-plus years, it really has given me a lot of growth, both personally and professionally. I’m a huge fan of masterminds. So I’m excited to have Aaron on. Aaron, welcome.

Aaron Walker:

Hey Ryan, thank you man, for having me. And thank you for those words of encouragement about the difference in your life in the past two years with the mastermind. You know, it’s only because of guys like you, that we can do what we do. So thank you for being such an advocate and a great member of Iron Sharpens Iron.

Ryan Cote:

Absolutely. So why don’t you start off by telling us what you do and then what your interests are?

Aaron Walker:

Yeah, well, I appreciate that. Well, I’m kind of a serial entrepreneur. This is my 42nd year being an entrepreneur. You know, I started at 18 years old. We’ve built 14 businesses over the past four decades, and today I’m a life and business coach. And I always say, I’m trying to help ordinary people become extraordinary in all they do, live a life of success and significance. So today we have 20 mastermind groups. We’re about to launch our 21st group. We have participants in nine different countries from around the world now. And we just get an opportunity every day to do life with amazing people. So my life is probably more enjoyable today, Ryan than it has collectively in all the other businesses that I’ve owned put together. So the reason is because it’s transformative to other person’s life. It’s not just a business that’s making me money. So that’s a brief overview, a 30,000-foot view of what I get to do each and every day.

Ryan Cote:

Is your career more fulfilling now because you are pouring into other people and seeing them grow? And imagine that’s an easy answer, being yes.

Aaron Walker:

Used to all the businesses that I’ve owned are bricks and mortar businesses, and they’ve all been about me. And it’s all been about making a profit, very profit motivated, and nobody really cares anything about what you possess or have. But in this business, everyone wants to be around you for what you can offer for that transformational experience that they’re looking for. So it’s what gets me up every day. We make money and I enjoy doing that, but seeing people’s lives change for the better is the most inspirational to me.

Ryan Cote:

And I know you have your family involved in the business, that’s very cool, I’m part of a family business as well. So I know what that’s like.

Aaron Walker:

It’s good. Brooke is my oldest daughter and she’s the chief operating officer of our company. And then Robin has gotten involved recently, my wife of 40 years. She is one of the facilitators for the women’s group today.

Ryan Cote:

So the Morning Upgrade podcast is all about personal development, morning routine. So obviously because of your profession, this is like the perfect topic for you. So I just want to get a sense as to what personal development means to you, what habits do you have? What is your approach to personal development?

Ryan Cote:

Yeah, I think we all should be in a state of personal and professional development, from the very beginning, all the way through to where they lay us out parallel one day and put us six feet under. I don’t think we ever stop learning and I’m a constant student. I even went back to college and did some classes at 40 years old because I wanted to learn different things. I talked to Jeff Hoffman not long ago, he’s one of the founders of Priceline and he spends an inordinate amount of time reading each and every day. Warren Buffet, the third richest guy in the world today spends eight hours a day reading. And it’s not like he needs to make more money, but he wants to grow personally and professionally. And I just think that we need to be constant students. Some of the rituals and routines that I go through now is I’m an early riser, I love to get up early. So between four and five o’clock every morning. 

And I spend the first hour and a half to two hours every day, first and foremost is through prayer. I’m a Christian by faith. And so I spend a lot of time in prayer, meditation, just being quiet, and listening. I pray for the people that I coach each and every day because the things that I tell them, they take seriously and I want to be sure that I’m giving them sound advice, pray for every member of my family every day. And I pray for God’s leadership in my life to lead me from the top in Iron Sharpens Iron to new Heights. And so that entails scripture reading on a daily basis, scripture memorization. For me, it involves oftentimes praise and worship music just to kind of get myself centered for the day. And then after that hour and a half or two hours, I’ll get up, shower, and go on about my day. But I think it’s important that we not start our day in a mad panic. I think that we need to really get ourselves centered, focus on what is the most prioritized objectives that we want to accomplish, and then go out and tackle the day. And I can’t do that if I just get up and hit the ground running.

Ryan Cote:

Yeah. I a hundred percent agree with that. I noticed a difference when I start my day off reading emails, I do have a morning routine, but sometimes I slip and I’ll get sucked into email and it’s like, it just messes me up.

Aaron Walker:

You know, there’s an out for that and it’s called a power button and you just can’t turn that thing on until you get through with your morning routine. Don’t let the email dictate your day, be proactive and really think through what is a priority for you in the mornings. And I would just encourage you going forward to just leave that device turned off until you get through with your morning routine.

Ryan Cote:

That’s good advice. You mentioned learning, it could be reading books. What’s your approach to reading books? I asked you that because recently I started trying something a little bit different where I used to do audible because I was commuting a lot, which I’m not doing anymore, I’m at my home office here. And I have Kindle, it’s convenient. The problem is then, I’m on my phone, which then creates other distractions. So what I’ve been doing lately is an actual physical book, and then I get a pencil, and then I’ll write notes in the book itself. So I feel like it’s sort of cementing what I learned. What’s your approach to consuming?

Ryan Cote:

Well, there are two ways that I do that. First and foremost, my favorite way is with just a book I love to sit in my chair, have a cup of coffee, it’s tangible, it’s physical, I can hold it, I can underline, I can write notes in the margin. So that’s my favorite way. My least favorite way would be Kindle simply because of the distraction that the device can create. You can easily flip to a notification and go check email and texting and things like that. So that’s my least favorite. I’ve also started doing a lot of audible on top of the book. Like I’ll do the book and then I’ll go back and listen to it because I really like it when the author does the audible because I hear his voice, his passion, what’s really important to him. And oftentimes I’ll pick up things in audible that I didn’t pick up in the print. And it’s the opposite too, though. I’ll pick up things in the print that I didn’t pick up in the audible. And so I think you kind of get it best of both worlds. And I also like to do the audible because if I’m hunting or fishing or I’m driving, I’m a very productive person, I want to get multi things accomplished. And so I can do those things all the while doing other tasks that don’t require any thought. And so I like audible for that reason as well.

Ryan Cote:

I love the idea of reading the book and then listening to it on audible, just to recap what you learned. That’s one thing I’m going to try. So, all right. I know you’ve run, you mentioned this before, and I know your background, but you’ve run multiple businesses. What have you learned about yourself or what tips have always started comes to service running multiple businesses that you could share with us?

Aaron Walker:

Yeah. Well, one of the things is that it’s my first core value is relationships matter most and in the businesses early on, it was all motivated by profits. And as I started thinking through that, there’s nothing wrong with making money. I love to make money and I don’t want to take away from that. I just don’t want money to be the sole motivator. And when I got a little bit older, you know, I’ll be 60 in March, when I’m getting a little bit older I’m thinking about all the things that have mattered the most throughout my career. And it all points back to relationships. And, you know, you hear those things and you hear old guys like me say those things but it’s true. And I heard people say it when I was younger, a lot of the guys that I aspire to be like and was around were very successful financially. And invariably, they would say the same thing. They would say there’s value in time. You want to be able to have time, but there’s also great value in relationships because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all around is it doesn’t matter what business that you have. There’s gotta be some form of relationship around that and really people matter most. And when you take the time to really devote to those friendships and those relationships, it really makes it more meaningful to you.

Ryan Cote:

Do you think it’s because when you’re younger, not that money doesn’t matter when you’re older, but you’re raising a family maybe? And your finances are a little more tight than maybe when you’re older. Does that have something to do with it?

Ryan Cote:

Well, absolutely. I mean, we need money. I mean, that’s just the bottom line and I hate it when people with money go, money’s not important. I want to go, you liar. It is important. Let’s take it away from you and see how important it is. I hate it when people say that because they think it makes them appear to be more noble when people say, Oh, I don’t do it for the money. I’ll say, well, great, do it for free. And then they’ll go, nah, I can’t really do it for free. Well then it is about the money and it’s okay for a certain amount of our profession to be about the money. Because Ryan, you’re like me, you like to have a nice home, take a vacation. I like to eat every day. It takes money to do those things. And it’s okay, my friend, Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote a great book called Thou Shall Prosper. And it’s a fabulous book and your listeners should read that book because it really teaches you the principles of money and what money is about and the value that we place on it. But I just think that we need to focus on multiple things, but money being one of them, it just takes it to live a great life. Plus, people that are broke, can’t help people financially. And there’s a lot of institutions that need money, a lot of churches that need money. There are great causes all over the world that require a great amount of money and it’s okay to make money to do the things that you want to do for your family, but yet give a lot of money away as well.

Ryan Cote:

Yeah. I love that perspective. And we’ll link up that book in the show notes. Thanks for sharing that. So, Aaron, I’ve got one last question for you, and then you can share how everyone can learn more about you and Iron Sharpens Iron. What’s the hardest thing about running your business and what are you doing about it?

Ryan Cote:

Yeah, well, I think the hardest thing for me is I’m a very relational person and I want to build deep, intimate relationships with everybody. And that’s just not possible when you scale a business, you know, we have almost 200 people now in all the ISI groups and I want to know everybody intimately. I know you, but there’s many people in the group that I know them by name, but I don’t really know him, I’ve never had a conversation to any level of degree like I would like to have. There are many guys in the group that I’ve built relationships with over seven years. And so for me, it’s getting myself out of the way and saying, Hey, do for a few what you wish you could do for everybody, but build the systems and processes around adding great value so that the business goes on, not from the sake of an interesting character or not on my reputation or not on me as an individual, but we’re building a business around something that adds immense value when I’m dead and gone. 

Because I want Iron Sharpens Iron to always be here. I want the legacy of this business to be, Hey, relationships matter most, I want to build relationships with people in it. I could ask you today, Ryan, who is the president of McDonald’s, who’s the president of Google. Who’s the president of Uber. And most people don’t even know. They can tell you the founder, but they don’t really know who leads the institution. Well, that’s because they’ve done a good job with systems and processes to serve you well. And that’s what we’ve got to take out of our businesses and that’s what I’m learning to do now. So the hard part for me is getting myself out of the way and allowing the systems and processes to work.

Ryan Cote:

How are you learning to do that? Do you have a coach yourself? Or are there things you’re reading?

Ryan Cote:

It’s constant reading. It is having coaches myself. It’s surrounding myself with very competent and capable people. Just because I own this organization doesn’t mean I’ve got all the answers. As we said at the onset of this interview, we’ve got to stay in a constant state of personal and professional development. Things change, technology changes, a hundred years ago, everybody was afraid to do away with the horse and buggy. They said it will ruin the world if we do away with that because what will happen to the buggies and the horse salesman, what happens with all those people. And so today we have automobiles as a result of it. It’s revolutionized the industry that we have today. It’s the same way today. You know, fax machines were popular 35 years ago, and today nobody has a fax machine. I’m just saying technology changes annually now and if we’re not staying up to speed, if we’re not on the cutting edge of development today, we’re going to be left behind. And so that’s the reason it’s imperative that we stay on the cutting edge ongoing because we’re never going to be at a place to where there’s not a level of I’ve arrived or I’ve reached the pentacle. We’ve always gotta be striving and always on the cutting edge.

Ryan Cote:

Absolutely. I actually have one more question for you. I’m sorry, I lied. Then you can share your website. I’m just curious. What’s your number one personal development tip? If someone said to you, Aaron, I can only do one thing to help with my personal development. Only one thing. What would that one thing be?

Aaron Walker:

I would get better at building relationships faster. A lot of people are timid, they’re shy, they’re in isolation. And I would go out more even if I were an introvert, I would practice being an extrovert more in building the relationships faster. Because that’s going to open more doors for you than anything. Having honest, real relationships will open more doors, relationships trump everything. It doesn’t matter what else it is. Relationships trump everything. So from a personal development side, I would be all in reading everything that I could teaching me how to build relationships more solid and faster.

Ryan Cote:

And I can attest to that. I mean, I can hold a conversation, but I naturally lean more towards being an introvert. I don’t get energy from being around a lot of people. So for the first ISI, the all lands group, where all 150, 200 guys get together, the first one was pretty overwhelming. I felt I could definitely feel my anxiety risen a little bit but it has gotten easier. It’s like anything you practice, you get better.

Aaron Walker:

Yeah. Very good. Well, listen, you had mentioned how you can find me. The easiest way to find me is at viewfromthetop.com. And if you’re really thinking through masterminds, we would love to have an opportunity to talk to you whether you’re a man or a lady, we have groups for both. If you’re wanting to start a mastermind and you’re like, I don’t even know where to begin. We created a digital program. It’s a framework called themastermindplaybook.com and you can start a mastermind yourself and then generate a very nice income all the while transforming lives for other people. So, yeah, reach out to me on either of those, themastermindplaybook.com or viewfromthetop.com.

Ryan Cote:

Awesome. Thanks for sharing Aaron. And thanks for being on. I really enjoyed it.

Aaron Walker:

I enjoyed it, Ron. We’ll see you, buddy.

Announcer:

Thanks for listening to the morning upgrade podcast. Please subscribe and review, and don’t forget to visit us at morningupgrade.com for more content.

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