Hey everybody, this is Russell Brunson. Welcome back to the Marketing Secrets podcast. I’ve got a special fun treat for you over the next 4 episodes, I’m really excited for. We’ve got a friend that lives in our neighborhood who, I have this problem when I meet people where I just tell them that they should launch businesses and podcasts and try to change the world, because that’s just how I view the whole world. We had a chance to meet their family and I told her, “You should start a podcast.” And unlike what most people that hear that, “Oh yeah, that’d be fun.” She actually did it, started a podcast.
And because of that, one of her first episodes I went on, and I was one of her very first guests which was super cool. Her name is Monica Tanner and her podcast is called On the Brighter Side. So I did the podcast interview with her and she was, she kind of jokes about it now, she was nervous and it was one of her first ones, the audio quality wasn’t amazing. But she did an interview with me talking a lot about, not so much my successes, here’s how cool Russell is, but more on the failure side, and family side, and things like that, that I thought was really interesting. So that was a really fun podcast interview.
And fast forward, like 2 years later she asked my wife to be on the podcast. So Collette did a podcast episode with her, where it’s kind of like the second half, looking at the same questions, not the same but similar questions that she asked me, but through Collette’s lens and how she viewed the experiences and what we do and everything like that. So I asked Monica if she’d be okay with me publishing those 2 podcast episodes here on the Marketing Secrets show and she said yes. So I’m excited for that.
So what we’re going to do is I’m going to break it up, each one into halves, so basically it’s going to be a 4 episode series. It’s going to be part 1 with Russell, part 2 with Russell, part 3 with Collette, and part 4 with Collette. Collette’s interview, just so you know is way better than mine, and I’m super proud of her, she did a great job. This is only her second podcast interview ever. So if you love it, let her know, she’s getting more and more used to this and sharing herself and stories, and it’s just been fun watching her blossom and share these things. So I’m grateful for Monica also inviting Collette to be on her podcast as well.
So with that said, I’m going to queue up the theme song, and when we come back I will start part 1 of 4 of On the Brighter Side series. So with that said, let’s get started.
Monica: Hello, and welcome to On the Brighter Side, I’m your host Monica Tanner. Today I have a super special treat for you guys. My guest today is the husband of one of my very best friends in the whole wide world, the dad of some of my very favorite kids besides my own, he’s our neighbor and friend and one of the kindest men I know. Over the past ten years he’s built a following of over a million entrepreneurs, sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his books, popularized the concept of sales funnels and cofounded a software company called Clickfunnels, that helps tens of thousands of entrepreneurs quickly get their message out to the marketplace. Please help me welcome my guest today, Russell Brunson. Hi Russell.
Russell: Hey, how’s it going?
Monica: Good, thanks so much for joining us today. So my first question for you is about your wife.
Russell: The coolest person I know.
Monica: Yes, because I’m dying to know how a goofy wrestler got a catch like Collette to marry him. What did you have to do to convince her?
Russell: That was actually, it’s funny because I’m famous for selling stuff, and that was probably the hardest sale I ever had, was convincing her to marry me.
Monica: I bet, that’s awesome.
Russell: It’s funny because when we first met, she’s 5 ½ years older than me, and a bunch of my then roommates kind of had crushes on her, so we’d always go, as an apartment, go hang out over there, because they were all trying to date her and stuff like that. And I didn’t think that was even a possibility. So I’d just come hang out because I had nothing else to do, and after a little while we just kind of started liking each other, and then that was the big question. “Can I date someone 5 ½ years older than me?” And I’m like, “Would she actually like someone 5 ½ years younger than her?” That was the other side of the question. And she said yes to the first date, and it all worked out in the end.
Monica: Okay, so most people who know you, know you as a fantastically successful business man, a marketer, a public speaker, an author, a guy who can do everything. And I’ve been super excited to interview and strategically place your interview after my episode on failure, because I know that you haven’t always been this successful. I know that you’ve had to overcome some things and even fail at a few other business endeavors before you got where you are, so I was hoping you would start by telling us that story.
Russell: Yeah, there’s actually a lot of stories about my failures. How many do you want?
Monica: As many as you have time for.
Russell: No, it’s funny because when I first started my business, I was in college and just met Collette, and we were about to get married. And it was the first time, I remember I told my dad, “Hey, I’m getting married.” And he was like, “Well, how are you going to support yourself?” And I was like, “Well, you’ve been supporting me.” And he was like, “Well, when you get married, I don’t do that anymore.” I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t even think through that.” When you get married you’re a grown man and you’re on your own. I was like, okay I gotta figure it out.
So that’s the start of this whole process. I started learning about how to, internet marketing and how to sell things and tried a whole bunch of, I spent probably about 2, almost 2 years trying stuff that didn’t work. So there’s a whole slew of failures in there. But some of the bigger ones were after I started figuring out, “Oh, this is how internet marketing works, you create a product, you set up a website, you get people to come to it…” Just kind of learned the basics and started making some money.
And really quick I started hiring some people because it started getting overwhelming, so I hired some of my friends. And it’s funny because anybody who would ask me a question about it, I’d hire them because I was like, “Oh you care about this, let me hire you, I need someone to hang out with that will talk to me.” Because no one else knew what I was doing or cared about it, you know.
So I ended up hiring a bunch of my friends and we started growing the company and there’s this really weird thing, as entrepreneurs you make money when you sell something and that’s it, but as employees you get paid every two weeks whether you make money or not. So I started growing this business and they’d want a paycheck. “Hey it’s payday.” And I’m like, “We don’t have any money.” And they’re like, “Well, we have to get paid.” So I’d be like oh. So I’d try and put together something really quick to sell, and I’d pay payroll. And then they’re out of money again. And I knew payday was in 2 weeks again.
And I’d literally ignore all my staff because I didn’t have time to train them on stuff, I had to go make money so I could pay for them. So they were sitting on the other side of the office just wondering what they should do, while I was hiding away trying to make money to pay for them. It was this horrible thing. And that was the first time, it was like Christmas time and everything, basically I ran out of money and ran out of ideas, and I was like, “I have to fire all my friends and a bunch of my family members.” Which was a scary thing.
And it’s funny, I was out hanging Christmas lights up and listening to an MP3 of somebody telling some business ideas, and someone had an idea and I was like, “I can try that.” So I called them up and I was like, “Hey guys, you don’t know this yet, but we’re completely broke. I have no money for payroll or Christmas. But I think I got an idea, do you guys want to come try this thing out.” And they were kind of confused, and then they all jumped in and we got together and we put together a new plan, and it’s funny now, we’ll probably talk about funnels a little bit, but it was a funnel we put together. We didn’t call them that back in the day, but we created this thing and we launched it and we made enough money to cover everyone for Christmas, and it also built a continuity business so we could actually have money coming in.
So that was the first time we kind of almost collapsed the business. But after that I kind of figured out, oh, this is how it was working again. So then we started growing really big, and grew to the point where we had 100 and something employees, and then one day over night, that whole business lost all our merchant accounts and everything shut down. It was when the economy was changing and I had to lay off about 80 people in one day. A lot of them were friends and family members, all of them were friends, some family members as well. Then over the next 3 ½ - 4 years of my life it was just like, laying off more people and trying to like keep the doors open and almost going through bankruptcy twice, almost getting sued by people we owed money to, trying to figure out how to pay them.
It was a really dark, painful 2 ½ - 3 years or so. We owed a bunch of money to the IRS, and finally we were able to work out of it. But those were the 2, and when I think back about the whole thing, those are the 2 biggest times that my business kind of crashed.
And it’s funny, after the second big crash when I had to lay off all those people, I had a chance to meet this guy who had made hundreds of millions of dollars, super wealthy, and he asked me to tell him my story. So I told him the highlight reel that most people hear about. And he’s like, “Well, have you ever failed?” and I was like, “Uh…” so I reluctantly told him those stories about the failures. And he’s like, “Okay, good. You’ve cycled.” And I was like, “What does that mean?” And he’s like, “You’ve cycled.” And I’m like, “Okay, what does that mean?” and he said, “I’ll never work with an entrepreneur who hasn’t cycled at least once. If they’re always successful they still believe their own bio, they still drink their own kool-aid. After you’ve built something and you’ve lost it all, then you’ve cycled. Then you’re humble enough to actually be able to work with you. To actually create something really, really cool. Because you’ve cycled twice I’d actually work with you.”
And I remember thinking, that sounds so much better than failure. But it’s so true now. A lot of times when I work with people, you see the first time they have success, they’re going crazy and so much stuff is always, they make a lot of decisions a lot of times, not super arrogant, but they think it’s them, and you realize when you do have the big failures that it’s like, oh, it’s not you, there’s a lot of other people involved, and there’s timing, there’s inspiration from God, and there’s people. There’s so many things that happen and it’s like, as soon as you forget about that, it feels like the lord humbles you.
So ever since the second crash I’ve tried to be super aware of that constantly. And I’m not perfect, but I’m very aware of, okay who are all the people that are in charge of this? What are the inspirations from God coming and guiding me on these things? And trying to be very aware of those, because I’m just scared that if I’m not aware, it’s going to happen again.
Monica: So what would be your big takeaway? Would you say that instead of calling it failure, maybe we’re cycling, or….?
Russell: I think so. And I think people become okay with that. One of the biggest problems with entrepreneurs I work with is they’re so scared of the potential of crashing that they don’t risk things or try things. And I always tell them, if you look at the founding fathers, they gave us this blessing, I think it’s a gift from God, the bankruptcy laws. I’m like, worst case scenario, if you go bankrupt it’s not the end of the world. It’s a gift that we can reset and start over, and that’s what gives entrepreneurs and people the ability to risk and try things, knowing that worst case scenario there’s a reset and you can start over.
So I always tell people that. It’s not a, it’s okay to be, I think it’s okay to fail, and to be prepared for it. When I first started this journey I was listening to Brian Tracey, he was doing an interview I was listening to and he said that one night he was watching TV and there was this panel of millionaires, and there was 17 millionaires on this panel and they were interviewing all of them. And one thing the host asked was, “How many times did you guys each fail before you were successful?’ and they didn’t know the answer so they cut to commercial while they counted, and they came back and said, I think out of the people up there they averaged that they all failed on average 14 times before they had their success.
And Brian Tracey said, “Do you think it’s they just got, you know they failed, and they failed and eventually they got lucky and they did it? Or do you think it’s they failed and figured out that didn’t work and they failed and got better and got better until eventually it’s like they couldn’t not be successful.” And I think it’s the other way. The failures are okay, because it’s protecting you from that thing again, and it gets you closer and closer to where you’re at. I know that if I would have launched out company, Clickfunnels ten years ago, I would have bankrupted it 4 or 5 times by now.
But all these things I’ve learned going on this journey now, I’m hyper aware of there’s a gap here, there’s a way I could fail here, there’s things that are happening and I’m able to protect myself because of that, because of the failure. So I feel like the failure’s preparing you for whatever your bigger mission is someday.
Monica: I love that, I love that so much. So my question is for you personally, after that second crash, where you were so close to the bottom, why not just get a regular job somewhere working for someone? What gave you the idea and the courage to start from, just to do it over again?
Russell: Um, I actually remember, vividly remember laying in bed one day thinking, “I wish that I had a boss so he could fire me.” Because it was like, I wanted, I would have loved to step away from that. For me, the circumstances of the whole crash, I wasn’t able to. I had a bookkeeper who didn’t pay, I didn’t know this at the time, hadn’t paid payroll taxes in over a year, and we had sold a whole bunch of coaching, so we had a whole bunch of students who had bought stuff, so we had outstanding liabilities to. So I woke up every morning for a 2 year period of time knowing that if I don’t pay the IRS back, and payroll, I didn’t know this at the time, payroll taxes are not like they just give you a fine. Payroll taxes they lock you up and you go to jail.
So I was like, if I don’t figure out how to pay the IRS, I go to jail, which is a really scary thing to think through. And I had sold stuff to people and I had to keep fulfilling on it, and if I didn’t fulfill on it, it would have destroyed my name and my reputation and I would have lost that forever too, which is like….So I go to jail or lose my reputation or both. And I was like, “I can’t quit.” Even if I wanted to.
So for me, those are the 2 things that were really the driving forces that kept me in it. But then it’s like, I don’t know…
Monica: But you could’ve just quite. You could’ve just said, “Take me to jail. I don’t care about my reputation. I’m going to get a 9 to 5, this is too much stress.”
Russell: Yeah, I guess you could have. But there’s something, I grew up as a wrestler and I just know that all the good stuff in wrestling came on the back of defeat. My junior year of high school I thought I was going to be state champ and my very first match I lost it. But that loss, the person I lost to, my dad filmed that match and we went and watched it a thousand times over. And then in the state finals I actually wrestled the same guy and ended up beating him in the finals.
And then I looked at all my big successes, being an All-American, all those things, they all came on the back of a bunch of failures. It’s like, okay, here’s the mistakes, here’s the problems, let’s focus on that. What are the tweaks and changes we gotta make to come back and do better next time? So for me, it was more like that. As painful as it was, and as much as I just wanted to give up, it’s more like, what are the changes? We saw it work before, I’d seen it before. I’d seen a company with a hundred people generates a lot of revenue and helps a lot of people. So I was able to see the fruits of it, and I loved that part of it, and I think part of me missed that part. I’m like, we just gotta figure out how to get back to there. We were there once, we just gotta figure out the model and how to change it and tweak it.
Luckily for us, eventually we figured it out again.
Monica: Yeah. So do you credit wrestling with that resilience that kept you in there, in the game and going and working hard?
Russell: 100% I think most athletes I know do good in other things in life. Business, not all of them, some of them are dumb. I have a lot of friends who are train wrecks, but for me 100%. Wrestling and sports together teaches you so much stuff, right. Most people in their life, they don’t do sports, they don’t ever fail. They are in a thing where they’re studying, they’re learning to take a test, they get a grade and those kind of things. But they don’t have a chance to fail. Where most sports, especially wrestling for me, because typical wrestling season you have 30-40 matches and off season you’ve got another 80, so you’re looking at 100 matches a year. Most people don’t win 100 matches a year. You lose tons of those, right.
So for me it was that way. I lost so many times and I think losing is such a good thing because you learn. Either you give up and walk away, and throw your hands in. Or you’re like, okay I gotta beat….and for me, especially when wrestling is like, you see the person, you know who they are, and next week they’re going to be at the same tournament again. I gotta beat this guy next week and it makes you so frustrated. So you watch the match, figure out what they’re doing, and then practice all week until you see them again, and you try again. If they beat you again, you’re like, “ah.” And you come back and keep doing it until the end. So it helps a lot.
Monica: I agree. I’m starting to understand your drive here. So I talk a lot on my blog and my podcast about finding your life’s purpose. So what do you think is your life’s purpose, and does it include making a whole bunch of millionaires?
Russell: I love making millionaires, that is fun.
Monica: You’re good at it.
Russell: Yeah, in our office now, I don’t know if you’ve seen, you’ve seen our 2 Comma Club awards right? So we have this hallway, it was the bathroom hallway, and everyone who makes a million dollars inside of Clickfunnels, gets a big plaque. And now both sides of the hallway from floor to ceiling are filled, and now the kitchen is completely filled too. And we’ve got maybe, 30 or 40 days before we have no more room in our office to hang up these plaques for everyone.
But for me, to be honest, I didn’t know for a long time what my mission was, at all. I was excited by this, business, and sales, and marketing got me excited. But I always felt kind of shallow, what’s the point of all this? I don’t know. But I was learning it, and I was excited so I kept doing it. And honestly it wasn’t probably until about a year ago that I really started getting clarity on what my vision was, and I had a really good coach named Tara Williams I was working with at the time and she used to ask me, “Do you see the parallels of what you’re doing?” And I was like, “No, I’m just trying to make money.” And she’s like, ‘Do you need more money?” I’m like, “No.” and she’s like, “Then why do you keep doing this?” I was like, “Because…”
And I started telling her stories of people, I’m like, okay I’ll rattle off a couple of quick stories that are fun. One is there is this girl named Annie Grace that works with us who, she beat alcohol addiction, but she couldn’t do it through a 12 step program, she found her own way to do it, she’d written books about it, and a year ago she came to our program, and she’s like, “I want to help change the world.” And she didn’t know how to do it.
I was like, “I don’t know how to help people with alcohol addiction, but I know how to get your message out to a bunch of people.” So we gave her some tools and some training and she’s helped in the last 12 months over 50,000 people to overcome alcohol addiction.
There’s a guy Chrisbeatcancer.com who got the death sentence as a 27 or 28 year old that he had cancer. And he decided not to do chemo therapy and thought you know, can I cure myself? I don’t ‘know. So he started going and tried to cure himself and eventually cures himself naturally. And he decided, “I need to get this message out to people.” So we’ve been able to help give him tools and systems to get that out. And he’s helped tens of thousands of people naturally cure themselves of cancer.
Pamela Wible helps doctors who have been suicidal. She said, thousands of doctors from suicide through our tools and our training. I just look at all these people who have gifts that I don’t have. I can’t help a doctor not commit suicide, or I can’t help someone lose weight, I can’t…I don’t know those things, but because of what I’ve done I’ve learned how to get someone whatever their business, their product, their service out to more people, and so for me, I really feel like that’s my mission now. How do I empower entrepreneurs to actually change the world?
So ever since then, ever since I kind of got that, I’ve become hyper obsessed with entrepreneurs and how I can help them, how can I give them the tools, the inspiration, whatever it is? Because I’m a huge believer that entrepreneurs are the only people that can actually change the world.
I don’t think politicians are going to do it. I don’t think government is going to do it. I see entrepreneurs who are obsessively compassionate about their thing that they’ve figured out, and that’s who changes the world. So for me, it’s just like, if I can empower each of them then that’s my mission, to help them be able to change their world. So that’s kind of my thoughts.
Monica: I think that’s awesome. I love it so much. And I love watching you work. So I’ve seen you speak at some live events and I know you get up there and you command a room with thousands of people in it. But I also know you personally and socially I know you as really shy and reserved. I know you’d rather…
Russell: I’m awkward.
Monica: Not awkward, but shy. But I know you’d rather hang out in the corner and observe than be out working the room, which is what people would think if they see you at these live events. So which of these personalities comes more naturally to you? Like, what’s the real Russell?
Russell: I’m 100% the awkward weird kid. No, it’s funny because two months ago I spoke at an event that had 9000 people in the room, and I was onstage and I just loved every second of it. It was so much fun. But then afterwards I was in the hallway and someone came to talk, ask me a question. And one of the guys who works with me, Dave Woodward, he told me, “You should see your body language. When you’re onstage, you’re body is just like excited. When someone comes up to you you’re just like, scared to death.”
And I think for sure, that’s definitely more naturally who I am. My whole life I was awkward and nervous growing up. I didn’t have a ton of friends. The one thing I had growing up was wrestling. That was my thing, so I was friends with wrestlers. It’s funny, my 20 year high school reunion is this year, and I was looking at the list of everyone who was coming. I didn’t know anyone who was coming. None of the wrestlers were showing up, and I didn’t know anybody. I’m like, how did I not know anybody? I didn’t know anybody. I wasn’t friends with anyone.
I went on a mission for our church and I was awkward and nervous there. In fact, I reconnected with my mission president recently and he told me, he came to our last event and he was like, “I would never in a million years, pegged you to be the one onstage doing that.” I’m like, oh. But it was funny because I remember consciously when I made that decision to try to figure that out. I had been selling things online behind the computer and I was comfortable there and I liked it. And I went to my very first internet marketing seminar, it was in Atlanta, Georgia, it was this guy name Armand Morin that put it on.
And Ir emember I wanted to go because I didn’t know anybody else who was doing what I was doing and I felt lonely. And entrepreneurship I think a lot of times is lonely, because you share ideas with people and they usually look at you like, “Oh, wow. Good luck with that.” You know what I mean? Their eyes glaze over.
So I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this whole thing, so I knew there was this event and all these entrepreneurs were going to come. So I was like, I’m going to come and just be with my people. I was so excited. So I went there and I remember I didn’t know how events were run back then, and back then the way that they were, a lot of people call them pitch fests. Where every speaker comes and they sell something, and I didn’t know that’s what it was.
So I come to this event and the first speaker gets onstage and he talks for like 90 minutes, and at the end of it he sells something. And I was so confused. I was like, “Is he selling us something?” I didn’t understand what was happening. But I saw he was selling a $2000 thing, and all these people were jumping up and running to the back of the room. And I remember looking back, doing the math, “$2000, 4, 6, 8, 10… that guy made like $80,000 in an hour.”
And then the next speaker gets up and he was selling a $5000 package. And he sold it and people were running back. And I did the math and he did like $150,000. And I watched this for 3 days, speaker after speaker. And at the end I was like, I have to learn how to do that. If someone can stand on a stage and in an hour make more money than I made in an entire year, or some people in an entire lifetime, I have to learn that art and how that works.
And it’s funny because it didn’t come naturally. Someone invited me to speak in this seminar, so I went for the first time. It’s so embarrassing. I had a shaved head back then and glasses, and I always wore a suit and tie, because I thought that’s how, you know, you had to be a business person. And I went and stood up on stage, and I was super nervous and awkward and I tried to sell something and nobody bought. AndI was like, I will never do this again. And I didn’t for a long time.
But then I kept seeing this happening. I would go to other events and I would see stuff and I was like, this is a skill set I have to learn. So I ended up spending the next, almost 10 years of my life doing that. About 2 ½ - 3 years I was flying around the country speaking at events, trying to learn the art of it, trying to get comfortable doing it. It was so scary.
And then about 2 ½ years in, this was after we had the twins were born, and I remember I was at the Boise Airport one night, it was like 11:30 at night. I was the only one in the airport and I was miserable. I’m like, I’m flying somewhere else to go speak, and I just wanted to be home. And I remember texting Collette, I was like, “Hey, I’m retiring. I’m going to be done with this.” And she’s like, “You can’t. That’s how we make our money.” I’m like, ‘I know, I’ll figure out some other way. I’m done.”
So I basically quit speaking and then I went and like, how do I replicate this on the internet? So we started doing teleseminars back then, and then webinars, and that became how we kind of did stuff. But I went out of my comfort zone to learn it, and became comfortable with it, and now, you know, I teach thousands of entrepreneurs how to do that. How to either do it on a webinar or on a teleseminar, or onstage. Because I think that having your own platform is the best way to get your message out there and be able to actually change people’s lives. It’s hard to do it if you’re going to be the awkward introverted person. So for me, I had to come out of that to be able to actually have the impact I really wanted. But it’s still, you go to church with me, I’m this shy guy inside. In my last ward, last church, nobody knew what I did. Nobody ever asked, it was kind of nice, so I was fine. In this ward, someone found out, they told people, and now people ask me questions.
Monica: We all know. So I’m dying to know, because it doesn’t come naturally to you, I know that because I know you, but is there something that you like, do you have to mentally prepare somehow? Do you say something to yourself? How do you just prep yourself to go so far out of your comfort zone? Do you play the Rocky soundtrack in your mind? What do you do?
Russell: It’s funny because I still get super nervous every time, and people are always like, “How do you get nervous? You do this all the time.” I’m like, I don’t know. It’s the same way with wrestling. Even though I was wrestling someone who wasn’t good, I would still get insane butterflies and nervousness and all that stuff. But as soon as I would step on the mat and shake their hand, as soon as you shook their hand, it would instantly disappear and you were in the zone.
And for me, it’s the same way. I get so nervous. I think the biggest thing I’ve found, it’s funny, one of my friends, my employees caught me the other day, he didn’t know I do this, but I always before I go find somewhere to go pray. And basically I just pray that I will be able to have the thoughts in my head to actually inspire people to do what they need to do. And that’s the biggest comforting thing to me, is just praying. Understanding that it’s not me, because I think a lot of times we get nervous because it’s like, this is us, and it’s like putting us on trial. Are they going to like me? Are they not going to like me? That freaks us out. And I think over the last few years I’ve come to the realization that my job is not to care if people like me, it’s like, can I actually have the impact to change this person?
And so that’s become more important to me, so I always pray for that and that gives me, that helps calm my nerves. But then it’s still scary. I get out there and it’s like, even the smaller ones, where it’s smaller. I get so nervous and anxiety, and as soon as they introduce me and I come out and see everybody and it’s like, it goes away because I can serve, I can help. And it’s just so much fun.
Monica: That’s so cool.