Danny Iny’s entrepreneurial journey has had many twists and turns. He built Mirasee after his previous startup imploded in 2008, leaving him $250K in debt. But he’s fond of saying that “failure is only failure if it happens in the last chapter; otherwise, it’s a plot twist.”
His love-hate relationship with education began when he dropped out of high school at age 15 to start his first business. His frustrations with business education were driven home many years later when he completed his MBA from Queen’s University School of Business.
“Teach Your Gift”, his latest book, is the culmination of years of research and contemplation on higher education. Danny asserts that education doesn’t have to be the overpriced, obsolete white elephant it is today. Instead, it can be the “lighting of a fire” that solves problems and drives innovation, making students valuable to and valued by society.
Discover how Danny is disrupting business education while earning 7 figures and managing a team of 35 virtual employees that work from all around the world.
What you will learn
- The skills for scaling a business through relationships and referrals
- That finishing high school is not a big deal or the recipe for success. Something else is
- How to get other people to help you write a book for free
- How guest blogging can build global visibility
- How to get influencers to help you build a personal brand
- Why over-delivering makes you stand out and gets you remembered
- How great content (and influencers) builds your email list and distribution
- The importance of “quality decisions instead of just being focused on the quantity of work”
- Learn how a productive day can be achieved before lunchtime
- When the peak times are for deep work
- Why learning to handle tough times is an important lesson – “Don’t wish it was easier, but work to be better”
- How business education is broken in 2020
Books to read
Getting to Plan B – Randy Komisar
Teach Your Gift – Danny Iny
Jeff Bullas: Hi, everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today, I have Danny Iny with me.
I met Danny about seven years ago in Chicago at a mastermind event he was hosting. And I've been wanting to record Danny quite a while. And so, this is a fireside chat to hear his story and how he got to start his business Mirasee.
Jeff Bullas: But let me tell you first before we start having a chat with Danny about what Danny's claim to fame is and what makes him awesome. So, Danny Iny is a leading voice in the world of online courses. That couldn't be more appropriate that we're actually talking about online courses in this time in history, where everything offline, in terms of the real world has actually been almost canceled.
Jeff Bullas: So, we can't fly, we can't go to conferences but we can have this virtual chat. So, just a bit more about him. As the founder and CEO of Mirasee, a business education company, Danny has developed innovative training programs that rise above online education.
Jeff Bullas: These include the Course Builders Laboratory, Business Ignition Bootcamp, and ACES club. Over 5000 value driven entrepreneurs have enrolled in these programs. Today, Mirasee is a seven-figure business with 30 plus employees distributed all over the world.
Jeff Bullas: He has been featured or contributed to publications including the Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur Inc., Forbes and Business Insider. Danny has spoken to places like Yale University and Google and is the author of books including Teach and Grow Rich and Leveraged Learning and is launching a new book in the next few weeks and we'll talk about that later.
Jeff Bullas: So, welcome to the show, Danny. It's great to have you here. And we are social distancing!
I think the distancing here is about 15,000 kilometers, I think something like that. So,
Danny Iny: Oh, my God, it's pretty far.
Jeff Bullas: It is pretty far. So, Danny's in Canada and I'm in Australia. So, we're behaving ourselves with social distancing. And that's what we do today. So, welcome to the show, Danny, and I look forward to hearing more about your story.
Danny Iny: Thank you. I'm excited to be here. And even at this distance, I'm very happy to be in your company.
Jeff Bullas: So, Danny and I met seven years ago. And I went to a Mastermind Event that Danny had organized. And I've been helping him over the years launch some of his courses. And it's been an absolute joy to get to know Danny. He's very understated.
Jeff Bullas: He doesn't like to brag as we say in Australia. And he's produced an incredible company. So, Danny, tell me a little bit about how your entrepreneurial journey started. And now, it's not one where you've succeeded straightaway which is not unfamiliar for entrepreneurs.
Danny Iny: Sure. So, my entrepreneurial origin story. I like to say that I've been an entrepreneur for longer than my adult life. I quit school when I was 15 to start my first business. And the story there is that, if you knew me as a kid, I was this nerdy goody little two-shoes, teacher's pet, perfect grades, I was that kid.
Danny Iny: And that went on until about the end of the eighth grade. And then I go into the ninth grade. And it's a switch flips in my head. And I'm sitting there in class, I'm thinking, "I'm so bored. I can't take this anymore." And so, I cut some classes and I disappear for a few days, and I come back and I sit there in class.
Danny Iny: I'm like, "They're still talking about the same thing." Nothing has changed. And so, I cut some more classes. And I'm not a person who does things halfway. I've been an extreme personality. So, in that first trimester of the year, I missed 152 classes and the numbers just went up from there.
Danny Iny: And this went on for about a year and a half. And a year and a half into this, I'm cutting classes left and right. I'm more absent from school than present. A year and a half in, I looked at myself in the mirror and I asked myself, "Danny, what are you doing? What's the plan?"
Danny Iny: Is the plan, am I just going to spend three, four more years cutting classes, watching MTV and going to the gym? That's not a good use of time. So, I decided to make it official and quit school and start a business. And I hadn't known what was a technology company.
Danny Iny: And when you hear, "Oh, kid dropped out of high school started a technology company," you're imagining Mark Zuckerberg, kid who could hack into the Pentagon," that was not me. I had no technical skills whatsoever. I knew a little bit of HTML.
Danny Iny: So, I figured which anyone who knows what that means is that means very little. That was like, I know some HTML, maybe I'll build some websites. So, I go door to door to all the shops in my town. And I go into the shop and I ask the person behind the counter, "Does your shop need a website?"
Danny Iny: And I was naive and inexperienced to the point that I didn't realize that the clerk behind the counter is not the person who makes that decision. And so, this goes on for a couple months and I never get anywhere like no traction, nothing. And a couple of months into this, I'm sitting at, I think it was a friend's house.
Danny Iny: We were playing one of these educational video games with his little sister who was seven years old. And we look at this game that she's playing. And my friend says, "This is a pretty simple game. I'll bet you could build this." And I tell them, "I'll bet I could."
Danny Iny: I don't know why, I had none of the skills to actually do it. But I'll bet I could. It looks simple enough, how hard can it be? So, I found the box for the game. I find the company information. I call them up and I get a meeting with the CEO. And this is one of these things were in hindsight it's like, that's a big deal.
Danny Iny: How did I get a meeting with the CEO? But at the time, it didn't occur to me that it was a big deal, so I honestly don't remember. It was just, of course, I got a meeting with the CEO. So, I walk into this company. And I am 15 and a half years old.
Danny Iny: I tell him, "It's great to meet you. I have a business proposition for you. I think I can build the games that you sell." And I tell him, my mom has a degree in psychology. I tell him, "I've conferred with the psychologist." And I've come to the conclusion that if you really want a game that helps kids learn they should be playing and having fun and learning in the background.
Danny Iny: They shouldn't be doing math exercises on the screen. And what he could have told me was no kidding, "I've been doing this for 10 years. Get out of my office." But instead he opens a drawer, he pulls out a document, he blows on it, a cloud of dust flies off it.
Danny Iny: And he says, "This is a script that I wrote for a game eight years ago. How about if you build it and we'll sell it?" And I say, "That sounds great." And he asks me, "How are you going to build it? What are you going to build it in?" And I had no technical skills but I had a friend who knew Visual Basic, I thought maybe my friend would teach me.
Danny Iny: I'd heard about Visual Basic. So, I tell him, "I'll build it in Visual Basic." And he says, "Isn't that reinventing the wheel? Why not build it in Director." And I tell him, "Look, if we're going to be working together, of course, I have to adapt to your business practices. So, I'll build it in Director."
Danny Iny: So, we shake hands. I go home. I open up Google which is brand new at the time and I typed in, "What is Director?" And this was my beginning to the world of entrepreneurship at 15. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity that this executive gave me.
Danny Iny: I worked on this game for two or three years. I restarted it a couple of times on account of first time I built it. And I had no skill, so it didn't work. And I kept trying to make it better and it was years in and I had a working prototype and I sit down to play. And I'm like, "You know what, this game sucks. The script is terrible."
Danny Iny: This learning assignment project that he gave me and I'm super grateful for the opportunity, this was my introduction to the business world. The game never saw the light of day. But I did do some contract work that they paid me for on other projects as I started to develop real technical skills. So, those are the humble origins.
Jeff Bullas: So, did you get paid during those two or three years while you were stumbling through director? And-
Danny Iny: I did. I didn't get paid to develop the game because it was a royalties deal. But as I was starting to build skills, they came to me and said, "Hey, we have this module for another game we're working on, can you write code for this too?" And they paid me for that hourly.
Jeff Bullas: Right? Okay. So, that's your first step in the entrepreneurial world. It's maybe not working out that well for you. So, were you still at school?
Danny Iny: No, I was not in school. I was out of school. Then I took a break from that because I was in the military. I lived in Israel at the time. So, mandatory military service is mandatory. I got out of the military. I moved back to Montreal which is where I'm originally from in Canada.
Danny Iny: And I always wanted to build a game of my own. And so, I set out to do that. It was going to be a game that teaches kids how to read. And I was very excited about this. And I wrote a business plan. And I got other people excited. And I raised money from friends and family and other sources, and we built a prototype.
Danny Iny: And the experts loved it. And the kids loved it. This was my first attempt, a big startup thing. This was I guess, 2007. And it was all going great. The experts loved it. The kids loved it. The only people who didn't love it or even understand what I was trying to do were the parents and the teachers who are the actual customers.
Danny Iny: And this is valuable for me as an entrepreneur. And by the time I figured, we were bleeding money, I was learning how to lead. I was learning how to manage. I was learning how to market. I was learning everything as I was doing this. And by the time I figured it out, I reworked the business plan.
Danny Iny: I was like, "Okay, here's what we need to do." I shopped it around. I wanted words like, this is so brilliant, so innovative. Okay, it's time to raise money to fund this pivot. And I hit the pavement, start raising money from investors in at the end of August of 2008.
Danny Iny: And of course, in September of 2008, the markets crashed. And it was game over, there's no money to be had. So, this business that I was building, it turned into this giant crater. And anyone who's listening to this who's had a business implode on them, they know that, yes, it's financially challenging.
Danny Iny: I mean, my investors were friends and family. I wasn't comfortable with them losing all their money. So, I took the losses on personally. So, I walked away from this with about a quarter of a million dollars in personal debt. So, that was not good.
Danny Iny: But it's not just that financially it was ruined, it's emotionally incredibly hard, right? Going through the implosion of a business is a lot like going through a really rough breakup. And after you go through a really rough breakup, you're not ready to start dating right away.
Danny Iny: You need some time to lick your wounds. And so, coming out of this, I need a way to make money. I needed to pay bills. I still had rent that I had to pay. But I didn't want to start a business and raise money and hire employees. And I was like, "What can I do that doesn't involve all that?" I was looking for the casual relationship. I was looking for the business that I can do on the side.
Danny Iny: Well, and you meet someone here, you meet someone there, it was that thing. What business can I do on the side? And so, I said, "I'm going to start a blog." I'm going to start a blog and teach things I've learned about marketing and strategy that have helped people.
Danny Iny: And I figured I don't need to hire employees. I don't need to raise money. I can just do this. And it struck the right chord in the market. It was a message that came out of hard-won experience and it was a voice that it seemed the market was hungry for at that moment in time and it just took off.
Danny Iny: The audience grew and people started coming to me and business was booming and I started hiring people. And here we are 10 years later and I have a couple dozen employees and we do millions and millions of dollars in revenue and we serve thousands of students. And sometimes the rebound is the one, right?
Jeff Bullas: Right. So, that original business, was that Firepole Marketing?
Danny Iny: Yup.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I think. And part of it was you did a very clever content strategy where you got individual people around the world that were supposedly influencers to write a chapter, I think for you for a book, is that correct? For memory?
Danny Iny: Yeah. So, there's a bit more to the backstory. So, I spent the first year of building this business, Firepole Marketing. We eventually rebranded to Mirasee on account of Firepole Marketing, it was a really bad name. It did well enough while we were starting.
Danny Iny: But I got a lot of my early exposure writing guest posts on major blogs. So, find the major blog and figure out what seemed to work in terms the content they publish their audience. I would pitch a really good post to them. They would say, "Sure, send me a post. Send me a draft."
Danny Iny: So, I'd write a draft. It would get published. And I would lather, rinse, repeat. I did that about 80 times in the course of nine months. And in doing that, I got a little bit of exposure. I built a bit of a following. But also, very importantly, I started to develop a working relationship with people who ran all these blogs.
Danny Iny: And I have this idea, I want to take things to the next level. And whenever you do something, my belief is that if you're going to do something you want to really over deliver. I learned this lesson in the context of gifting from my friend John Ruhlin, he wrote the book Giftology.
Danny Iny: And he says, we've all been to events where you get a ton of cheap corporate swag, it's like the mugs and the t-shirts and the pens that have the logo on and everything goes in the trash when you get home. And he said, "If you want to avoid that," right, you want to think differently about your budget.
Danny Iny: The way and people usually think about what they're doing is, if I have a $10 budget to give a gift. They think, "What can I get for $10?" And he says, "What you should do is ask yourself, what can you usually get for $2, but get the best version of that that you can find in the world," right?
Danny Iny: So, we do that. Here's some point for those people who are watching video. At all of our events, we give away Mirasee pens. Now, this is the pen. This is the nicest pen you're going to get. These pens cost us a lot of money relative to a pen, but they make an impression.
Danny Iny: So, if you're going to do something, go above and beyond, do it really well. And at the time, there was this traffic strategy which is a hack that people were doing, which was they were doing these roundup posts, right? I want to break onto the scene, I want a lot of people to notice me.
Danny Iny: So, I'm going to go to a couple dozen influencers, I'll say, "I'm writing a roundup post about blabbity blah," whatever the topic is. And I'm going to ask them three questions. And they'll write me half a paragraph because they don't want to be rude.
Danny Iny: And I'll create a post where I have half a paragraph from 24 influencers and they're all linked. And I'll play it live and then I'll email them all and I'll say, "Look, it went live," and they want to be polite. And they see it and that's, "Oh, that's interesting," so they Tweet it, you get a little bit of exposure.
Danny Iny: So, I thought to myself, "How can I do that but 100 times better." So, I went through my network and I looked at who are the most impressive, influential people that I know. And that's going to be a shortlist for anyone, right? So, in my case, the people at the top of the list were Guy Kawasaki, who I had written about his book when it came out.
Danny Iny: We developed a bit of a relationship, I did an interview with him. They were Brian Clark at Copyblogger who I'd written some really successful posts for. And Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation. So, these were probably the three most influential people that I knew.
Danny Iny: I reached out and I said, "Hey, I'm putting this book together, it would really mean a lot to me to have your contribution. Can I interview you for 45 minutes? And I'll write a chapter based on the interview and you can tell me if you like it, and you can tweak it however you want."
Danny Iny: And they were very gracious and they agreed. And those were the anchor contributors to the book. And then I went to a lot of other influencers, yourself included. So, I had this great lesson I learned from a mentor. And he told me, "You've got to think about boxing in your weight class."
Danny Iny: What that means is that when Brian Clark, Mitch Joel and Guy Kawasaki contribute to the book, that's great. They're doing me a favor, right? They're not going to want to spread the word. They're not going to promote the book.
But they did me a favor by putting their name on it.
Danny Iny: And that's, that's wonderful. And they gave great content. And I'm grateful for that. But then, I shopped around a lot of influencers who are a run down from Brian Clark and Guy Kawasaki and closer to the weight class that I was in. And I said, "Hey, I'm putting this book together. Do you want to write a chapter for it? Do you want to be in a book with Brian Clark and Guy Kawasaki?"
Danny Iny: And lots of people were like, "Hell yeah, I would love to do that." And so, I had about 30 other influencers write chapters on topics that created this unifying thread. And I wrote an introduction, I put it together and it was a solid physical book.
Danny Iny: Because everyone who contributed to this whether it's 45 minutes of their time in an interview, or they wrote an article, right, they took a look leap of faith on me, right? In the same way that if I say I'm writing a roundup post, you write me a paragraph, that's a leap of faith too.
Danny Iny: And getting people to make that first investment is just where it starts. What you really want to do is then how do you show them that it was so absolutely worth it for them to make that investment? So, I didn't want to produce some PDF E-E-E-book.
Danny Iny: I made sure it was printed. It was physically bound. It was this beautiful cover design. I made sure it's a nonstandard size. So, it doesn't just sit on a shelf and fit in with all the other books. It's bigger, right? So, it stands out. And I got three copies.
Danny Iny: And I mailed three copies to each of the influencers with a note that says thank you so much for contributing, one copy is for you. The other two are for people that you think would benefit, right? So, they gave to me their content and their time.
Danny Iny: I want to go above and beyond and show them, hey, this was worth it. And a lot of people were like, "Hey, this is cool. This is impressive." And a lot of people were excited to hold this book in their hands and be like, "Wow, I'm in a book with these amazing people." And they did a lot to spread the word, to tell their followers.
Danny Iny: And that was really what jump started the growth of my community. All that early guest posting I probably picked up across 80 posts maybe 700, 800, 900 subscribers. In the three days of the book was out, my audience grew by 300%.
Jeff Bullas: Right. This is very much in the early days of content marketing and also the rise of social media. What year was this Danny?
Danny Iny: So, the book came out on November 27th of 2011. So, this was the project of 2011.
Jeff Bullas: Right. Yeah. Because I started my blog in 2009. So, this is about two years into my journey. And I know you approached me and I think as you said you mentioned those three, and I knew them. And I already had communication with a couple of those.
Jeff Bullas: And I went, "Okay," because it was where I basically did everything I could because I was still getting traction as well at that time. And this is when social media was also very organic. So, your timing was good because basically what was being shared got shared a lot because you didn't have to pay for attention back in 2011.
Jeff Bullas: So, this is Firepole Market which became Mirasee. So, you're on this journey. You've actually learned a lot from your previous failures and experiences. You build a lot of expertise along the way. So, you did mention the term mentor. So, what mentors and that could be a book, it could be blog post, it could be persons, who was some of the mentors that helped you along the way that guide you?
Danny Iny: Yeah. So, two very influential mentors for me were Mitch Joel, who I mentioned, to contribute to the book and another contributor to the book, Randy Komisar who is a partner at Kleiner Perkins. He invested in Nest and they did phenomenally well with that. He's a brilliant, brilliant guy.
Danny Iny: And he also contributed a chapter to the book. And the way I connected with him was, I had read his book. I think at the time the book was “The Monk and the Riddle”, which is a book about entrepreneurship, it was very well rated. And I read it and I was just starting out.
Danny Iny: I was two months into having a blog, nobody reading it. But I reached out to him. I made a shortlist of authors. I really like their stuff. And I found their contact information online. And I emailed them. And I said, "I'd like to interview you for my blog."
Danny Iny: And for a reason that I don't know what it was. He was like, "Yeah, sure. Let's do it." So, we set up a call. We talked for an hour, I interviewed him. And I did go above and beyond to over prepare for that interview. I spent hours and hours reading his book and thinking about questions.
Danny Iny: And we had a good conversation. I published that interview which probably two people listened to. But I don't think he was looking for me to make an impression in terms of breaking the doors down with how many people listen to it. But I do think I made an impression in terms of asking interesting questions, in terms of doing my homework on the conversation.
Danny Iny: And so then, I invited him to contribute to the book and he very graciously did. And his work has been very influential to me. And so, over the years, whenever I'm in California, I'll reach out and they'll say, "Hey, do you have some time?" And if he does then we'll meet for lunch.
Danny Iny: And so, I've had the privilege of sitting down with him for lunch. I mean, probably half a dozen times over the last 10 years. So, it's not a huge number of times. These conversations have always been very impactful and very influential. I'll share a very specific thing that I took away from one of those conversations.
Danny Iny: So, I went down to his office. This is Kleiner Perkins on Sand Hill Road, a giant venture company, a venture capital firm, beautiful, beautiful building. We got some lunch at their main conference room. We take our food to sit in his office, to sit and eat and talk.
Danny Iny: We get to his office and I noticed that he has this giant desk with nothing on it. Not a paper, not a computer, not a pen, nothing. Nothing on the desk. The office is just sparkling in terms of how clear it is. There's one little bookshelf with a bunch of books, including mine that he contributed to, which was very flattering to me.
Danny Iny: But the office was completely clear. And it was clear to the point where it almost looked like, "Did you just move into the office," right? So, I comment,
I asked him, "I noticed there's nothing on the desk. Are you just coming back from a trip or something?" And he said something that really struck me, really stuck with me.
Danny Iny: He said, "I realized early on in my career, that the trajectory of my career and the impact that I would have would be: “Less a function of the volume of work I did, and more a function of the quality of decisions I made”
And so, I've been careful to eliminate and remove anything that might distract me from the most important decisions I have to make."
Danny Iny: And I thought that was just so insightful. It really stuck with me. And he's a brilliant kind person. He's written multiple books. His book, Getting to Plan B, is probably the single book that I give people the most when I'm giving on business advice, it's probably the best business book I've ever read. So, yeah, that's a great example of mentorship.
Jeff Bullas: That's very interesting about his comment, it's not the quantity of work I do. It's actually the quality of the decisions I make. And that's very interesting. So, that leads us to this...
Mirasee is doing very well. You have 30+ employees.
You're developing an online company.
Let’s take a closer look at that in a minute.
But I want to touch on a little bit about your routine. ow, you have a young family, successful company, and you're looking very fit. So, tell me a little bit about your daily routine and how you organize your day.
Jeff Bullas: Because a lot of people are saying,
"Okay, busyness is like this badge of honor that I've watched over the years. And I've watched, it's like, I'm busy. So, I'm important or I'm busy, so I'm doing good stuff.
And what you've just told me about your mentor is a little bit of a different angle on that. So, tell me a little bit about your routine if you're open to sharing that.
Danny Iny: Yeah, of course. So, I'm a morning person. I've always been a morning person. But since having kids, I've become much more of a morning person. I've learned about myself. Having kids is the ultimate personal development journey. It challenges everything you think you know about yourself.
Danny Iny: And I realized I need a fair amount of personal space. I need a fair amount of personal time. And I can't do it, where I start my day and I open my eyes and the first thing I see is somebody who wants something from me, right? I need some time to myself first.
Danny Iny: So, I started getting up very early. I'm typically up between four and five in the morning. I'll get up, I'll shower, I'll do my morning routine thing. And my routine is slightly adjusted. But typically, I would go for a walk and go to Starbucks. So, Starbucks opens at 6:00 AM during the week where I live.
Danny Iny: So, I would leave the house at quarter to six. And so, that sets my timeline. So, I'm usually up before that. I'll do a pass-through email. I'll clear stuff that is not... I don't like having a lot of things pending on my mind. So, the best days are days when I stay on top of email more or less during the day.
Danny Iny: But before I leave for Starbucks, I leave the house at 5:45, my inbox is empty. So, I'm like, I know there's no other things for me to think about. I can just focus on tasks of the day. So, I take a walk to Starbucks, I get a tea and a bagel.
I go for a long walk. I'm usually walking for about an hour listening to a podcast or an audiobook.
Danny Iny: I get home and I get home around 6:45 and that's when my kids and my wife are starting to wake up. So, the next hour and a half is helping people get up and have breakfast and get to daycare or whatever the rhythm is. Of course, in this era of social distancing, I'm not going to Starbucks, I'm just taking my tea from home and walking, but it's basically similar.
Danny Iny: And my kids are not going to daycare but still have the same morning routine. And then, I'll settle back into work. And so, my workday is typically 8:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon. And for me, that's a hard stop. Because my kids are at day care, and that’s when I go to pick them up.
Danny Iny: From then on, it's family time. So, it doesn't matter what it is after that. Can you join this Mastermind? Can I interview on my million people audience? Nope, after 4:00 it's family time. So 8:30 AM to 4:00 is my is my day. I had a very interesting experience at a conference two years ago.
Danny Iny: I was in the Philippines of all places. And I was talking to someone, we're just having this offhand conversation.
And he asked me, "Is there a time of the day when you're most productive?"
And I tell him, "Yeah, I typically get 80% of my work done before lunch."
Danny Iny: And I just paused from that. And the weight of what I said hits me like a ton of bricks because my next thought is like, "Why in the hell do I keep working after lunch?" So, I've learned to be very mindful of my own energy rhythms and when I'm effective.
Danny Iny: And for me, my peak times are 8:30 in the morning until noon. And so, I'm usually very diligent about no meetings during that window. That's my time for deep work. If I'm writing copy. If I'm developing strategy, if I'm thinking, et cetera.
Danny Iny: And then the afternoon is when I'll have meetings. I'll meet with my team. I'll do podcast interviews. I'll have whatever connection time I need for other things I'm doing, that's my work rhythm. And I'm very mindful of my energy levels. So, if I'm taking on a task and I'm wading through molasses, it's not moving, right?
Danny Iny: I tried to be mindful of that. And that's where I said why? Why is it moving so slowly? Am I just not focused? Am I tired? And I'll wait for those circumstances to be better. So, it's very common for me to say, "You know what, I'm going for a walk."
Danny Iny: I'll just go for a walk 30, 45 minutes to clear my head, to think, to listen to a podcast. I probably walk an average of two to four hours a day. Because a lot of my job involves thinking and making good decisions. So, I don't need to be at my desk.
Danny Iny: I need the movement and the space and the stimuli for that to be done well. I don't exercise as much as I'd like, that's been a challenge. I don't count walking as exercising. Walking as moving, it's thinking, it's healthy but it's not. I'm not going to have the physique or fitness of a superhero from walking a lot.
Danny Iny: And that's been a bit of a struggle. I want to get back to that. I used to be in much better shape. And it's a priority but it's less of a priority than my overall health, and it's less of a priority than my family. And it's less of a priority than my business.
Danny Iny: So, it's squeezed in between everything else but that's my rhythm. And then for four and onwards, I'm hanging out with my family. We'll go for a walk or we'll make dinner or we'll hang out. We like to watch TV or movies after dinner. We'll read a couple of books before the kids go to bed. And then I'll hang out with my wife and read a book before falling asleep, that's my rhythm.
Jeff Bullas: Right. It's quite fascinating to hear different people's routines. And for me, it's also very important to actually balance life and we often think that work is everything.
Some people think that's the only thing.
But there's much more to life than just being incredibly busy.
Jeff Bullas: You maintain the family relationships, looking after the family. And also, looking after the business and making quality decisions. So, it's very interesting how your mentor has helped you think about that. I haven't heard that before, which that's really great perspective that I think is very refreshing.
Jeff Bullas: Now, I think the thing I'm curious about and listeners would be too, is just look a little bit closer at the early days of Firepole Marketing/now Mirasee. How did you grow the business? How did you scale Mirasee?
Danny Iny: Through relationships and referrals.
And there's nuance to that but everything came down to that. So, I shared with you and with our listeners the strategy of I did all this guest posting and people found my work. And so, my content was published on different blogs and that's endorsed content, right?
Danny Iny: If I'm on Copyblogger, there's an implicit endorsement from Copyblogger. Copyblogger readers are being told, "Hey, you should read what this person is saying." And some of them follow back. And then I leverage those relationships to connect with more influencers who I built relationships with and then they contribute to my book or we then went on and did collaborative promotions like you've supported some of our launches, right?
Danny Iny: You tell the people whose trust you've worked hard to earn.
Hey, check out Danny, he's legit, his stuff is good. So, that's really been the engine of our business. And there are different tactics, different elements. But fundamentally, connecting with people, over delivering on experience and creating an opportunity for them to tell the people who listen to them that they should check out what we're doing and lather, rinse, repeat, that's how we went from zero dollars to many millions of dollars.
Jeff Bullas: Right. So, along the way obviously, being an entrepreneur is not a bed of roses. It can be really tough. And you experienced that early on. So, what are some of the biggest challenges you've struck over with Mirasee in the last since you started. I know you had the problems you started right at the beginning was you were navigating your way to being an entrepreneur? So, what a couple of the biggest challenges you found over the years growing Mirasee and also running it, finding the right people?
Danny Iny: Well, I mean, the challenges are innumerable. There's so many, right? It's always a little bit frustrating to me when you hear someone who's achieved spectacular success. And they talk about their challenges in the early days. It implies that they had all these challenges so they figured it all out. And it's been smooth sailing for the last decade.
Danny Iny: It's like, no, that's not how it works. And I'll share with you an anecdote. So, this is going back just a couple years. When was this, January of 2017, I think. I had a book coming out. This was the second edition of my book Teach and Grow Rich at the time.
Danny Iny: And we were doing a big launch on the back end of that to enroll lots of people into our “Course Builder's Laboratory”. And this was going to be the launch to end all launches. It was so elaborate. We had dozens of different pieces of content and streams and it was going to be a totally personalized customized experience for everyone coming in.
Danny Iny: So the goalwNo one getting hammered by 100 emails that they're not interested in. Perfectly tailored to what they want. We had 100 partners on board. We spent a year. This was a full-time team's years' worth of work getting this together. This was going to be our magnum opus. This is our moment.
Danny Iny: And the launch kicks off and it kicks off really well. We hit all the top of the list for one of the top 10 bestselling books on all of Amazon which is unheard of. Because typically, the top hundred are all fiction. It all goes super, super well. And then literally at the five-yard line, we fumbled the ball.
Danny Iny: So, in our back end, in our email system, someone on my team had checked the wrong box, right? So, you're sending emails, you're designing campaigns, you check a box to who it goes to. And they checked one box off, right? It was a split second of human error.
Danny Iny: And because of that, 86% of our leads did not hear from us at all during the core window of the launch. And the funny thing is the launch was so effective, that it masked the problem, right? Because when we looked at the results we were seeing, it didn't look like we were getting great results from 14% of the audience.
Danny Iny: It looked like we were getting mediocre results from 100% of the audience. So, the numbers were bad but they weren't so bad that we were like, "What's going on? Let's do a diagnostic, something is wrong." So, by the time we figured it out, a week had gone by.
Danny Iny: We missed the critical window. So, we did our best to pivot. We did our best to make it up. But there's a narrative, there's an energy to something launching, it was just lost. And when all said and done, we did the analysis, the price tag on that mistake was three quarters of a million dollars.
Danny Iny: And I'm grateful that we still had a million-dollar launch. And we still reached a lot of people but we're not an organization of a size that can have about three quarters of a million-dollar hit. And so, I had to let people go. We had to adjust our plans.
Danny Iny: And that also led into a very difficult year because the world doesn't stand still. And so, the landscape was shifting and things we were doing, we're working less and less, and we needed to adapt and figure it out. It was a very challenging year.
Danny Iny: And I took steps and I learned and I did soul searching, and I had my Dark Night of the Soul, and eventually you figure it out. The advantage of having a longer track record as an entrepreneur is not that you don't have these challenging moments.
Danny Iny: It's that you've had enough of them that you recognized the pattern. You're like, "Okay, this looks awful. It's devastating." But I've had awful devastating experiences before. I know, I'll figure it out, even if I haven't figured it out yet, right.
Danny Iny: It allows you to build this resilience and optimism. But that's one instance. And I could point to the disaster of last year, the disaster of six years ago. There's no shortage of them. There's a metaphor that I share with entrepreneurs as they're going through challenging times.
Danny Iny: They're like, when will this end thing? And the answer of course, is never. Entrepreneurs sometimes conceptualize their journey as being analogous to catching a train ride, right? So, you've got to work really hard so you can get the ticket. You've got to hustle to capital train. But at some point, once you get on the train, it's like, okay, now it's just smooth sailing. It just goes, right?
Danny Iny: And that's not how it is to run a business. A better analog would be to imagine you're surfing. So, there's no situation where you're surfing on the water and you're just like, "You know what? That's it, I'm done. I've got this. I'm just going to take a nap on the surfboard."
Danny Iny: You can't do that, right? The comfort, the stability doesn't come from the fact that the water stops moving. Water is always moving. The comfort comes from your confidence in your competence knowing that, yeah, the water keeps shifting, but I know I can handle it, right?
Danny Iny: And that's really the attitude that you need to bring to the table as an entrepreneur. And as I was going through this Dark Night of the Soul, this was just a few years ago. I had this experience where you're hustling, you're trying to turn things around.
Danny Iny: And I had four huge deliverables in the span of eight days. So, the super high-profile important webinar that I had to deliver and then this entire massive piece of copy that I had to write and this talk that I need to deliver at this very high-profile location.
Danny Iny: So, four deliverables in eight days. And I'm working crazy and I knock them out of the park, one after the other. And I do the last one, I hit it, it's a home run. And I go back to my hotel room, and I opened my inbox, and there's a new crisis waiting for me.
Danny Iny: And I think to myself, "Can I enjoy the wind for 30 freaking minutes?" Is that too much for me to ask for? And I had this little temper tantrum in my hotel room. I'm very glad that there was nobody there to see it. But then, I was in New York, it was raining. I go for a walk. I walk for an hour and a half in the rain. I'm really thinking to myself.
Danny Iny: And I just have this mind shift when I'm on this walk, I realized, "You know what? I've been thinking I just need to get through this hard part. I need to get past this difficult part." And I realized that even this is my job, right? And I changed my perspective. Instead of being I wish, I just want to get past this hard part.
Danny Iny: I changed it to, I really hope I don't get past this hard part before I learned to navigate it with stoicism and grace because that is my job as an entrepreneur. And that shift away from when will this be over and towards what is the lesson in this? That shift is what makes you in the long run a successful entrepreneur.
Jeff Bullas: So, it's about learning from your tough times and not wishing for tough times not to be there but basically, it's okay. Life is going to be tough. It's the human condition as we often hear about in stoicism. And it's what you learn from it. And wishing the outside to match your inside is just not going to cut it.
Danny Iny: Yeah. I mean, Jim Rohn said very wisely, "Don't wish it was easier. Wish you were better." Right? So, that's the shift. Stop wishing it was easier, start wishing and working to be better.
Jeff Bullas: Yes. And I've just finished reading a book by Michael Singer called Untethered Soul which-
Danny Iny: It's a great book.
Jeff Bullas: It is a great book. And one of the best perspectives I've seen in terms of how to live a life of freedom. It really is. I think the best book I've read the last 10 or 12 years. Now, the other thing I want to ask you, and I think we share a little bit in the same area.
Jeff Bullas: I originally trained as a teacher. And I taught for five or six years. And I struggle with it because I felt I was teaching information to students. So, they often come up to me and go, "Mr. Bullas, why are we doing this instead?" I said, "Because you have to," it's the wrong answer. And you obviously were frustrated because you left school at 15 and a half.
Jeff Bullas: But there was another education experience you had and when you did an MBA. Can you tell me more about that? And I think that underlies a bit of what you do with online education today, and that you're about helping to reinvent education. I know you feel very strongly about this. So, tell me about the MBA and then what drove you to actually then evolve Mirasee to what it is today?
Danny Iny: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for asking. So, as I shared earlier, I dropped out of high school and I have this experience and I tried to build a business and it fell apart and all this debt. And when you're in this moment of soul searching, it's when you're looking for an anchor for something stable.
Danny Iny: And I thought to myself, "Maybe I should just go back to school." A lot of people in their darkest hours try to hide out in academia, I think.
And so, I found what were the top 10 best business schools in Canada and I applied. And I got into one of these programs, several of them, I chose one of them that I went to.
Danny Iny: So, I went through this program. I came out of it. I have an MBA. So, my two academic certifications are an elementary school diploma and an MBA. I have nothing in between. So, I went through this program. I spent a lot of money. And it was a very disillusioning experience.
Danny Iny: I joke when I spoke at Google, if people are listening to this, search online, you can find, go to YouTube search Danny Iny talk at Google, right? I gave a talk where I shared a lot about this experience and lessons learned that stuff. But the brochure talks about how it was going to open doors and create opportunities.
Danny Iny: And I would be meeting all the future leaders of tomorrow, right? In my experience, I was learning from, in some cases, great professors. In many cases, people who were there because they have tenure rather than teaching ability. I was learning things that had very little to do with the real world of business outside of banks or insurance companies.
Danny Iny: And the people I was networking with and connecting with were the middle managers of today, right? It was not a very valuable experience. It was probably the worst investment of time and money I made in my life. And that experience contrasted with quitting school.
Danny Iny: It puts some things in perspective for me that really set me on the rest of my journey. So, I'm actually grateful for the experience because it showed me how broken the system is. It sent me on most of the rest of my career. But when I contrast those two experiences, right, when I quit high school, people told me, "Danny, you're making such a mistake. You're throwing your life away."
Danny Iny: And there's something interesting there, right? You're making a mistake. Okay, that's a plausible perspective. I disagreed. But I could see why people might think that. But you're throwing your life away, right. This implication of permanence, right? This is forever.
Danny Iny: And I never got that because I was like, look in a worst-case scenario, you can go back to school. So, this is a reversible decision. And then in contrast, and in hindsight, quitting school and doing all the things I did, I have so many experiences and I learned so many things I never would have, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Danny Iny: And then when I told people I'm going back to school, I'm getting an MBA. People were like, "This is great. You're setting yourself up for a lifetime of possibility," right? And nobody said anything about permanence because why would you want to undo this wonderful thing.
Danny Iny: But what I found is that it was not a good use of time or money at all. I got very, very little from the experience. And I was stuck with all that debt for a very long time, that was completely permanent. And this mismatch between the perception people have of the efficacy and outcomes of these educational experiences versus the reality was so stark.
Danny Iny: They just got me thinking, "What's going on? What's broken here?" And the answer is a lot. And honestly, we could talk for hours about everything that's broken about the way education is done in the world. But the very, very short perspective is that, the fundamental paradigm the way education is done is just broken, right?
Danny Iny: The fundamental paradigm is that the teacher decides what is important for you to learn. And they will expose you to all of it in parallel. You're going to be a mile wide and an inch deep. And it's going to be driven by them. You're going to do what you're told.
Danny Iny: And everything that cutting-edge science tells us about what makes for truly impactful education tells us that none of that is effective, right? You need to first of all be student driven, right? The students should decide what they want to do and the student should take ownership for their learning, not in the sense of I think I'll go to school here but in the sense of I care about this, I'm going to learn this.
Danny Iny: I'm going to do a research project. I'm going to immerse myself. They should decide what they're interested in and go deep on that. And it should be project based, it should not be content based, right? And so, there's this really interesting pattern where if you look at people who've been very successful in their career and look at their background, what you'll find with a very high degree of likelihood is at least two very disparate unrelated areas in specialization.
Danny Iny: It's a case in point I'll tell you for myself. As a teenager, I got involved in martial arts. And I trained in martial arts for seven years. And I studied and I taught.
And I really immersed myself in this. I have bookshelves and bookshelves in my house about martial arts because it's just something that was an area of interest.
Danny Iny: Then I developed a fascination with Leonardo da Vinci. And I have bookshelves and bookshelves about Leonardo da Vinci. And I don't know much about any other Renaissance artists but I know just about everything about Leonardo da Vinci.
Danny Iny: And then I became interested in the conflict in the Middle East and what is going on there. And I've read dozens and dozens of books about that. And I did model peace negotiations, all these kinds of things and peace building activities and they went really deep on that, right?
Danny Iny: And the same is true now for business. Now, am I good at business because I studied martial arts? I'm sure there's some carryover effect, but it's not about all the lessons from martial arts that made me a good business person. But all the skills I developed in learning how to go deep on something made me capable in being self-directed and going deep on something else.
Danny Iny: And you see these patterns really often, right? You see this person who is rocking their job as a developer and as a programmer who was also a nationally ranked Halo player, and also played competitive tennis for 10 years, right? Completely unrelated things. So, I'm actually starting to write a book about this.
Danny Iny: This could be a very long conversation but fundamentally, the way higher education is done. And education generally, it's so broken and out of step with what we know helps people succeed today. I mean, it's very well designed for what it was designed for, which is producing factory workers in the late 1800s. But the world has changed since then.
Jeff Bullas: It has just slightly, I think. We have what we have. We've got centuries now what we call industrial learning. And it's evolving to be less and less relevant almost every year. And I remember even watching universities trying to catch up with digital marketing. For example, in social media marketing, they're still trying to catch up.
Jeff Bullas: And the challenge for me when I've certainly when I looked at the curriculum as a high school teacher, and got asked questions by my students. I realized that most of the professors that were imposing the year 12 curriculum had never left school. And if you think about it, that you have been given training to prepare you for life but people actually have never left school, that's slightly frightening.
Danny Iny: It's very frightening. And the problem of dealing, working with and learning from people who are not practitioners is that there's always going to be a lag. Here's the really funny thing where you talked about the academic world trying to keep up with digital marketing?
Danny Iny: Well, that strategy I built in 2011, the guest posting strategy that got me lots of exposure, social media, all that. So, I learned recently because a friend showed it to me, I wouldn't have known that it's actually a case study in a marketing textbook somewhere.
Danny Iny: And that marketing textbook came out in 2015 or whatever. By which point the strategy was no longer relevant in the way that I did it. But here's the really crazy thing, it's still being taught.
Jeff Bullas: Oh, yeah. Of course.
Danny Iny: In the way that I did it in 2011. I mean, can you do something like that? Sure. You've got to do it differently. But that just goes to show how out of date things are. And there's a huge value enroll for certain areas of academia, the areas of doing real research, right?
Danny Iny: And there's a lot of benefit for the business world to connect with higher level academia and take the insights from that research to partner with academia to learn what works and how can we do things better?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I totally agree. Yeah.
Danny Iny: It's a totally different role.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And can higher education help for good thinking?
Danny Iny: Well, you'd think. But the data actually suggests otherwise, right? One of the party lines of higher education is that we teach you how to think. You learn how to learn. Except that when you look and there's some great analysis and data about this measuring gains and critical thinking skills over the course of a four-year college, and they're basically zero.
Jeff Bullas: Right. Okay, that's very interesting. Yeah. For me, my learning, I don't have a marketing degree. I've never done a technology degree. And here I am playing and writing and creating a successful blog that I started with no background, except just an incredible curiosity about the subject, just you've collected books on certain subjects, but started creating content around it.
Jeff Bullas: And I write about what I want to learn about and then actually I apply it to the business. So, both you and I think we've learned by doing rather than actually just by turning up at a university. And yet we're both completed university degrees. You completely just bypass everything, went straight from go to MBA, which is rather cool.
Jeff Bullas: I applied to do an MBA and didn't end up doing one, which I think was actually a great decision really. So, today, Mirasee is running these online courses which obviously would be the underlying ethos is about what you've learned along the way about education in 2020.
Jeff Bullas: So just tell a little bit before we especially get into what are the lessons you've learned, we need to wrap it up. So now, you're busy getting a cup of tea ready to go for a walk, because I know what the time is there, but I'm sure it's about 6:00 AM by now. So, what are some of the online courses that you helped with and designed for students that want to learn? What do they cover?
Danny Iny: Yeah. So, we've worked with, I mean, literally thousands and thousands of students. And what we help people do, this has really become the core focus of an organization is to take their expertise and turn it into a powerful online learning experience that they can use to impact a lot more people and they can get in front of one to one.
Danny Iny: And really turn that knowledge into an online course business. And we have a variety of courses. We have a variety of training programs. So, really for people who want to learn more, I think the best place to go would be to check out the new book.
Danny Iny: I wrote this book Teach Your Gift which is out depending on when these airs either just now or give or take just now. And I really wrote this book because I would meet so many people who would say to me, I'm thinking about an online course. And I would think great, because I used to have to evangelize the idea of an online course. Finally, people are coming to and they're seeing it in the Zeitgeist. And I asked them, "Tell me what you're thinking." And they would share their plans.
Danny Iny: And I'd realize, they're working from a playbook that's five years out of date. And the world has changed over the last five years. So, I wrote this book to really share what today. Who should be creating online courses today? What does the opportunity really look like? What are the steps to take to be successful? And that's all in the book.
Jeff Bullas: Right. Okay. So, basically your core online training is helping people have great IP, great experience and expertise, and helping with credit online courses around it? Is that correct?
Danny Iny: Correct. Absolutely.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. And Teach Your Gift is essentially an outline and overview of how you can do that?
Danny Iny: That's exactly right. And anyone who's listening to this, you can get it, I mean, obviously, what's the joke. You can get my book on Amazon. The best way to buy books is in bulk. So, you can get as many copies as you want. But we're doing a whole bunch of special stuff around the launch of the book.
Danny Iny: You're going to be able to get a free copy for a little window there. We'll have some bonuses. So, if people want to see what's the best thing that they can get right now, go to teachyourgiftbook.com.
Jeff Bullas: Great. Fantastic. What we're going to do in the transcript and the notes with this podcast episode is we'll put some links up I think to connect, so people can get the book easily, maybe from various sources. Before we wrap it up to Danny, I just want to suppose what would be two or three major lessons that you've learned along the way as an entrepreneur and as a human doing and learning by doing.
Jeff Bullas: What are two or three lessons that you could share because you're obviously on this journey of learning and doing. You've gone through tough times. You've gone to the cave and you come back and say, okay. So, what are two or three things you can share with the listeners about they can take away, maybe apply to the business whether they're going to start, whether they're actually wanting to grow one?
Danny Iny: Yeah. So, something that I say a lot and it's actually on my shirt right now as we talk is life is short. And so, it's incumbent on all of us to do stuff that matters. And I think that's very true. That's a very powerful framing to drive us to do things that really matter.
Danny Iny: With that said, there's also a dimension to this, which is that life is actually long. Something I've learned, this book, Teach Your Gift is my, I don't know, 11th or 12th book or something. So, it's been a while that I've been writing books. And something I've noticed, I've seen this in a lot of authors but I'm certainly I experienced it myself, is that whenever you do you work on something big, right?
Danny Iny: You work on something that's a big thing that you're putting out into the world. And the book certainly qualifies with a product that you're launching or any big thing that you're doing. There's a tendency to become very monolithic in your thinking, right?
Danny Iny: It's not, this is my next book, this is the book. This is the book that it's my magnum opus, it's the thing that will hopefully change the world. This is my mark on the universe, and it's very understandable. But while is short life is also long and know one thing that you're doing is probably going to be the one thing of everything.
Danny Iny: And so, just adopting this perspective that it's not about this one homerun, it's about a series of good of good hits. That's what makes life meaningful. That's what leads to good achievement and good outcomes. So, setbacks are going to happen and that's okay.
Danny Iny: One of the things I like to say is that failure is only failure if it happens in the last chapter. Otherwise, it's just a plot twist, right? And that's what makes the story interesting. So, there's always going to be challenges. There's always going to be setbacks, and that's great.
Danny Iny: Those are opportunities for learning. And that's how the next item in the series of whatever you're doing will get better. So, I guess what I would encourage people to think is holding that balance between life is short so they should do stuff that matters. But life is also long and they have a lot of chances to make things right, as long as they keep trying.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. What a love, you're actually mentioning essentially applying a long game, and you're creating content of consequence that actually over time builds and builds and builds until you've got a body of work that has made a difference in all sorts of ways.
Jeff Bullas: And I just like to thank you, Danny, for sharing your story and your journey. And I've been looking forward to sharing your journey and story with everyone because I think there's a lot so many lessons that... and we actually only have just skimmed across the surface really. And maybe we can come and revisit a little bit more about education, I think that would be actually really fun to do, is to maybe go deep-
Danny Iny: I'd be honored.
Jeff Bullas: ... to do a deeper dive down the track about maybe the evolution of education and where it is going and where it should be going, I think is maybe what we should touch on maybe in a future podcast. So, thank you, Danny, for sharing your time.
Jeff Bullas: It's been an absolute honor to have you on the show. And I look forward to catching up in real life when things have settled down a little bit and we can shake hands and maybe even hug, that would be really cool. So, thank you very much, Danny.
Danny Iny: Jeff, thank you for having me. It has been a privilege. It will be a privilege anytime you'd like to do this again. And I look forward to a time and circumstance when we can be in the same room when a hug is socially acceptable, and I will very much look forward to that.
Jeff Bullas: That's great. Look forward to it, Danny, have a great day.
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