#016: Expert Interview with Mike & Maria Keiser, Mentalcompass.com [Podcast]

#016--Expert-Interview-with-Mike-&-Maria-Keiser,-Mentalcompass.com-[Podcast]This was a fun podcast to record. It’s a great conversation between Mike and Maria Keiser, and myself. We have two main takeaways for this conversation. 1) The benefit of having a trusted group of peer advisors. 2) The power of knowing your own strengths and how to play to their advantage. Have a listen to hear more!

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Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the episode? No problem! Read the transcript below! (Coming soon!)

AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #16 – Mike and Maria Keiser

Jenn T Grace:

You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, Episode Sixteen.

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Well hello and welcome to episode number sixteen of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I have a really exciting interview for you. I have been talking about the Human Performance Academy and www.MentalCompass.com and Mike and Maria Keiser for a while now. And they actually sponsor this podcast. So anyone who’s a loyal listener of the podcast, I’m sure you’ve heard the commercial from Mike Keiser of www.MentalCompass.com. And today I actually was able to sit down and talk with both Mike and Maria about the benefits and values of having a peer advisory board, and the benefits of knowing yourself, and knowing how you operate in business. So I had a great conversation with them, that I’m really pleased to be bringing you. If you hear any links in the podcast, you can find the information at www.JennTGrace.com/016, that is for episode number sixteen.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the interview.

Okay so today I am talking with Mike and Maria Keiser. They are the- I don’t even know what your titles are officially. But the founders of the Entrepreneur Circle, and also the creators of the Human Performance Academy. And for people who are listening to this right now, I’m sure you’ve heard me announce 1,000 times over that the Human Performance Academy is amazing, and that they are sponsors of this podcast, et cetera, et cetera. And then of course most of you will be familiar with Mike’s voice, however we have Maria here as well who’s somewhat the quite force behind the scenes.

Maria Keiser:

Hi Jenn.

Jenn T Grace:

There, oh look, she’s already appeared.

Maria Keiser:

Jenn if you are wondering about a title for me, people have asked me this before and I just usually stick with Queen.

Jenn T Grace:

I’ll take it, let’s do it, ‘Queen.’ Alright so we have Queen Keiser and Mike.

Mike Keiser:

Court jester is fine.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s actually pretty fitting based on your podcast as well. So this is my first time interviewing two people on one show, so this should be interesting to say the least. But I would love before we get into any of the nitty gritty and the details on all the different business types of endeavors that you’re going on, I would love for you both to just give a really quick overview of who you are and kind of how you got to this point.

Mike Keiser:

Well I first started in 1996, started a medical imaging company. We were doing bone density testing for osteoporosis at doctors’ offices, and senior centers, and corporations, and things like that. And did that for about six years and participated in a really informal peer advisory board that I got a great deal of value out of. So in 2004 when I got out of the medical business and we started the E Circle, we took that concept and made it more of a formalized process. So actually started in the medical industry, and ended up here. And prior to that didn’t even know I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So it’s been kind of a winding path for me.

Jenn T Grace:

Interesting. And Queen Keiser, you?

Maria Keiser:

I actually found my entrepreneurial path quite differently. I was fortunate enough to be able to be a stay at home mom, and one day just came to the realization that wow kids are going off to school, what’s my next step? But knew that I needed something that I could be a little more flexible. So just started out that way, but my background is teaching, and so facilitating round tables is just a natural progression of the teaching.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah that definitely makes sense. And so to start us off, I want to make sure that those who are listening know a couple of things, just kind of like a base foundation. That we- the three of us actually work together quite a bit, so that’s number one. And number two that you are both very good allies to the LGBT community, number two. And number three, the takeaway that I want the audience to get today is the power of knowing yourself, which then translates into knowing your business, which I feel like the two of you have helped me a great deal with. And then also the power of having a strong peer advisory board. I know some people call them Masterminds, you call them Round Tables, some people call them Peer Advisory Boards; whatever you’re calling them, just having a strong group of peers around you to help support you and your business. So for anyone listening to this and might be thinking, ‘Well this is somewhat off topic because we’re not talking specific about LGBT today,’ there is a reason for this and it’s really just to give you more information around you know how to know yourself better to then of course help your business.

So with that being said, where should we start today? I’m trying to figure out the best place, and maybe we could talk about your podcast for a minute, because you’re actually the third interview in a row that I have that also have podcasts. So out of, you know, sixteen interviews, finally fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen are people who also have podcasts. So why don’t you share a little bit about that? Because I listen to it, it’s very funny, it’s entertaining, it’s got a lot of good meaty content.

Mike Keiser:

Oh well thank you for the compliment. And well there’s a couple of reasons to do the podcast. It’s called Peak Performance, and it’s interesting that one of the take-aways you wanted today is getting to know yourself better. Because we can get off on a wild tangent about that, but the concept of the podcast really is to help people know themselves better, and perform at a higher level if you will. So hopefully exposing people to ideas and concepts and things in a practical and entertaining way, that can just help people- I guess the goal is to as we say help people be better than themselves. So it isn’t really about being better than anybody else.

Maria Keiser:

Being better than yourself and also it’s not easy, but it’s simpler than one might think. When people think peak performance, they get that look on their face like, “Oh my God, well I’m not an Olympic swimmer, or skater, or football player.” But you don’t have to be those things, peak performance is within everyone’s reach, and we really want people to know about that.

Mike Keiser:

And it’s also doing the podcast probably as you’ve found Jenn, it’s really a lot of fun. So as a form of marketing and getting people to know who we are and boy we’ve talked a whole lot about inbound marketing; podcasting for us is a really enjoyable way to do it, and more and more people are getting information as you know through podcasts as well. There are some people that are podcast junkies, and subscribe to a whole bunch of different ones.

Jenn T Grace:

Guilty as charged.

Mike Keiser:

What’s that? Yeah right, me too. There’s a bunch that I like. So it’s a fun and popular medium, and the show is hopefully to give people pragmatic advice and help people get to know who we are as well.

Jenn T Grace:

So out of your podcasts, what’s your favorite episode been so far?

Mike Keiser:

Let’s see, my personal favorite episode because we’ve only done a couple of interviews with people, you’ve done way more interviews than us. My favorite episode I think was the one where we interviewed a former NFL player and he was a Hollywood actor for a number of years named Pete Koch. Because he in my view really is a peak performer, yet he was just so cool and so down to earth and friendly about it that I think that was my favorite show. How about you?

Maria Keiser:

Well I have a lot of them but I think my all-time favorite one to do was when we did the two questions you should ask yourself every day.

Mike Keiser:

Oh that was one of the most listened to ones, too.

Maria Keiser:

Yeah, that that was a fun one to do.

Jenn T Grace:

So you can’t just say that and not tell us what those two questions are.

Mike Keiser:

You’re going leave us in suspense.

Maria Keiser:

Well maybe you should listen to that episode.

Jenn T Grace:

I could do that.

Maria Keiser:

The two questions are-

Mike Keiser:

Did I do my best at home?

Maria Keiser:

Did I do my best at home, and did I do my best at work today?

Mike Keiser:

Yeah, and that’s actually one of the most listened to episodes we’ve ever had as well.

Jenn T Grace:

I think that was a really good episode, and I’ve listened to every one of them, and I think that one of your points may have been in there, or maybe I’m just making this up, who knows. Is the fact that a lot of us focus on doing our best at work, but not necessarily at home. So there’s that imbalance between the home and work life, which I know I fall into a lot.

Maria Keiser:

That was one of the points made, and you know I think a lot of times we focus so much on being great or doing- or doing it really well and we forget that we can only just do our best. And so at the end of the day you have to look in the mirror and say, “Did I do my best today?”

Jenn T Grace:

That’s good information and it’s one of those things that I’m a really competitive person so I’ve learned that I just need to compete against my personal best, versus trying to compete against other people, because it doesn’t make sense to do it the other way around.

Mike Keiser:

But that’s a tough one. If somebody competitive like you, and I struggle with this too sometimes, we have this desire to want to control the world around us, and the people within it. And we find that that is a fleeting frustrating endeavor, too.

Jenn T Grace:

Definitely. So let’s see, I have a lot of questions for you. I’m trying to go in some sort of logical order so that way we’re keeping people somewhat on track here. So we were talking about peak performance already, and I know that one of the things that you’ve taught me in terms of being a peak performer, is really knowing your strengths. Would you say that that’s probably one of the foundational things for peak performance, or there maybe something else in addition to that, that’s really just that base foundation level that people can kind of spring off of?

Maria Keiser:

Jenn in my opinion, it is, it’s the baseline. Once you can understand what your strengths are, and you know let me just preface it with if you ever took the assessment which is the VIA Character Assessment, you wouldn’t be surprised at what your top strengths are, or what your bottom strengths are. But the information that understanding what those really mean for you, A) lets you off the hook a little bit, it helps you understand why maybe you’re not a creative person. Or why creativity stresses you out, or why dealing with upfront honest conversations really makes you feel extremely uncomfortable. And I’m not even doing it justice right now, but if you can just take a look at it and truly understand who you are, then you can show up every day as your true self; and that makes 100% difference, at least in my opinion.

Mike Keiser:

And yeah, I agree. And in addition to showing up as your true self, we’ve found with ourselves and with others that we work with, that if we work on developing and exploiting and developing skills and talents around our strengths instead of trying to fix our lesser strengths, that people are a lot more successful. They’re just- and they’re a lot happier, frankly too.

Maria Keiser:

I was coaching an individual probably about three or four months ago, and he had been about a year and a half in a new venture. And when we were going through his strengths I joked with him and I said, “Wow no surprises here,” and he says, “Yeah.” He says, “But look at my bottom strengths.” He says, “The last business that I sold I had to use these bottom five strengths every day, no wonder I hated what I did every day and it was such a drain.”

Jenn T Grace:

That’s why it’s so valuable to know your strengths. And I actually have a personal example of having done the strengths thing, and I tell everybody about it because I really feel like it’s that important. But when I was trying to figure out my podcast, and I know that Maria you have a great deal of inside knowledge on the whole tumultuous process of figuring out the name for it, and figuring out the format and all that kind of fun stuff. But what I realized is that if I just look at my strengths, which happened to be creativity- I know creativity, honesty, and humor were three of them at least.

Maria Keiser:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

And I was trying to figure out what the format of my show was going to be, and I feel like I was somewhat trying to- and I always butcher the expression, but put a round peg in a square hole or whatever the expression is.

Mike Keiser:

That was it.

Jenn T Grace:

I butchered it last night which is why I’m questioning it. So it’s one of those things that if I just stick with the things that I’m good at; being creative, being honest, and being humorous, then being- doing the podcast in that type of style will not be a struggle for me. Because I want it to be enjoyable.

Maria Keiser:

Well you hit the nail on the head, you look forward to doing it. When you’re using your strengths, there’s just something inside of you that looks forward to doing it. You know one of the- creativity happens to be my top strength as well, and at the core of creativity, it’s putting something together that wasn’t there before, problem solving. Well as crazy as this sounds, when I move, I rather enjoy it. I look forward to it. Why? Because I get to work from a blank slate and put it all back together. And yeah, am I exhausted at the end? Absolutely, but I get to use that strength.

Jenn T Grace:

I love that, and I actually refer to myself as the Tasmanian Devil occasionally, and I actually think I have that phrase in my book. That when I’m working on a project I will rip it apart as if I’m a Tasmanian Devil just ripping through, and it is bare bones landscape when I am done- when I start. And then it’s that process like you said of putting it back together and building it, and creating new structure, and making it beautiful like it wasn’t before. So I totally get that.

Maria Keiser:

Right. Now with that being our top strength, we have to be careful not to be tearing things apart that don’t need to be torn apart.

Jenn T Grace:

Agreed.

Maria Keiser:

There’s a yin and a yang to everything.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, there’s good balance.

Maria Keiser:

Yes.

Jenn T Grace:

So I would imagine that the two of you being business partners and husband and wife, you must have some sort of balance there. I would- and this was totally not part of my questions, but you saying the yin and the yang. Do you find that the two of your strengths are complimentary to one another?

Mike Keiser:

Most of the time. In fact we’ve often said that together we actually make one whole person, one real live whole person. So sometimes having similar strengths, we can tend to butt heads a little bit. But we’ve found that typically our strengths are relatively complimentary.

Maria Keiser:

Right and in addition to that, the things that we like to do are very different, so for the most part we’ve pretty much gotten everything covered. If he doesn’t care to do something, typically I’ll jump in because it’s something I enjoy doing.

Jenn T Grace:

Very interesting. So I would imagine in forming the Human Performance Academy, which we touched upon a little bit, but I don’t think we went into much detail. But I would imagine that creating a product like that requires your yin and yang balance of getting things done, because there’s a lot of moving pieces of that. So could you maybe take us through that process just a little bit of you know, where the idea of having the Human Performance Academy came from, and then maybe a little bit of how you actually worked together to execute on making it happen?

Mike Keiser:

Yeah, I love that question because it’s a great example of how business partners can get something done together. I also really love the fact that one of your outcomes today that you want is for people to understand how vital it is to know ourselves. And the reason for the Human Performance Academy, the HPA, frankly is I wanted to know why I was a screw-up sometimes, and how I could stop being one. And while I’ll use a polite word, I’m somewhat skeptical of much of the self-help stuff that I have found. And I really wanted to know what is it that makes people perform at a higher level, and perform better than themselves, and not be a screw-up? And so it entailed a whole lot of research. So I enjoyed putting the- doing the research, putting the concepts together, putting the ideas together, and then Maria is brilliant is coming in and turning you know sort of ideas and concepts and 30,000 foot stuff into detailed, you know, makes sense, usable, formatted kind of material. So she took it from idea to all the actual pieces, and putting together the book and the program, and that sort of thing. Would you-?

Maria Keiser:

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. I love details and he doesn’t, so it’s a good mix.

Jenn T Grace:

So would you say- what would you say the difference is? So I have a lot of listeners that are in Connecticut, and you’re also Connecticut based as well. So for somebody who would have the potential option to attend an HPA live in person, which you do have available, or doing it online in a virtual setting which you also have available; what would you say the difference in maybe- I’m trying to figure out how to phrase it. Maybe in learning style? Would it be valuable for somebody to attend in person? Because I have my own personal views on this, because I did attend in person. But I want you to kind of take a crack at it first.

Mike Keiser:

Yeah, I think the people that really enjoyed the interaction and hearing other people’s ideas and thoughts, and people you know, kind of sharing their personal experiences and stuff. If you’re one of those, I would say live for sure.

Maria Keiser:

Right.

Mike Keiser:

For the people that kind of like to plow through things by themselves, and learn really well just kind of on their own, and pondering things on their own, they would do perfectly fine with the non-live program.

Maria Keiser:

Right, and you know it’s interesting. When we have a live class and you have someone that is a little more independent, and a little more private, it changes the dynamic a little bit of the class because they’re there strictly for them which you know, whatever reason you’re there for, I’m glad you’re here. But they’re not sharing as much and they’re not participating as much. So that individual is probably better off just listening to the audio, maybe emailing us with questions, or giving us a call every once in a while and saying, “What did you- could you clarify that piece of it?”

Mike Keiser:

Yeah, I would agree. So I think those would be the big differences. Now what is your opinion if you don’t mind?

Jenn T Grace:

No I- so I love listening to podcasts, I am totally the junkie that you spoke of before. I enjoy online trainings and tutorials and all that kind of great stuff. But I feel like there’s something different when you can actually experience something like this in person. So I think that even- if I had heard about you and I knew that there was an online version, but there was an in-person version, and you know the time commitment, the cost, everything were exactly the same, I would totally still want to do it in person. Even though- well I don’t know that I was in the class necessarily one of those shyer types, I don’t tend to be.

Maria Keiser:

No you weren’t.

Jenn T Grace:

I don’t usually tend to be. But I found that a lot of the questions that were asked in it were really- like you really had to think about it, and you had to dig deep. And it’s not always fun digging deep. So I think that that might be where some of the more introverted people might have issues, because you’re now kind of talking about your personal- like your personal experiences, and I don’t know what the exercise was, but it had something to do with like envisioning the future for like five years from now or something like what the ideal scenario would be. And then you know, a lot of people I would imagine probably know that, but in my case I didn’t really have a clue what I should be writing down or what it looked like. And it took a lot of digging deep to figure that out. And I was hoping to hell that you would not say, “Jenn what are your thoughts?” And you didn’t thankfully. But yeah, it was an interesting experience. So along those lines, could you give like a really high level outline of what the HPA entails, and you know, what the end result is supposed to be from it?

Mike Keiser:

Sure, be happy to. And you’re so right, and I find this with myself too, that you have to really be willing to dig deep and look at yourself. And I won’t speak for anybody but me, sometimes that’s really hard because then you have to admit, “Wait I might be the problem in this situation.” So the HPA really breaks down into four concepts, we call them the Four Performance Influencers. And one, and people have heard this a million times, but the first one being having a clear idea of what you’re doing and where you’re going, and why you’re doing it. Because there’s so many people, it’s so sad, I’ve met so many people that are in some career or have a business- that they’re in a career they don’t like, or they have a business they don’t like, but it’s secure they feel, or it’s safe, or it pays the bills, or I’ve been doing it a long time. But so many people live that life of quiet desperation because they’re not doing something that has meaning to them. So that’s the first one. The second piece of it being the having the ability to manage your mind. And that can be a challenge too. Our minds really- our mind has a mind of its own, how’s that? And it’s really a challenge to manage our own mind, manage our emotions, manage our thoughts, keep things in perspective. The third which I’m becoming convinced is the most important aspect of what we talk about, is communication. Communicating with yourself, and how you communicate with others. So managing relationships I should say. Managing relationships with yourself, managing relationships with others, and we’ve found that most of the problems that exist in the world come in the form of poor communication.

Maria Keiser:

Communication and agreements.

Mike Keiser:

Yeah, so we talk a lot about that. And then the final piece of it being willing to measure and manage it all. So look every week at first, and then every month, and then every few months, ‘Am I on track to where I said I was going to be? If I’m not, what’s gotten in the way?’ So essentially keeping score.

Maria Keiser:

And you know Jenn, one of the reasons I feel like this class is so important, is most of us- I would say probably as high as 85% or 90% of us, are not- are kind of given this imaginary date, you know? So you can be carefree until your college graduation date, and then it’s time to just be this responsible adult that just goes after security. And I’m certainly all about being secure, right? You want to know that you can pay your mortgage, and food is good to have in the house, and all those other great things. I was talking to a young kid over the weekend, he was I want to say 23 or 24, and you know he was talking about all the things that he wanted to do, but then got this really sad look on his face because he couldn’t bring himself to actually go for it, and he says, “But the good news is I just got accepted to the Electrical Contractor’s Union.” Which there’s nothing wrong with, but the look on his face was utter desperation; he was just so- he was so upset about that, that this was probably going to be what he was going to do for the rest of his life because it was the safest thing for him to go and do.

Mike Keiser:

So I think- you asked about the takeaways, because that’s such a sad but a really good example. The takeaway of the HPA is that it really is possible to be- you know to live a happy life, a happy successful life that you enjoy, and the goal also to be better- just better than yourself every day. So just perform a little bit better than yourself, because in our personal experience and the experience of the people that we’ve worked with for ten years or so, is it’s usually not like these huge massive changes people need to make. On occasion it is, but typically it’s just making little tweaks, little changes. Or as Maria likes to say, making one better decision every day. And so that’s kind of the point of it too. Just make those little corrections every day, and you will be kicking butt.

Jenn T Grace:

So back to your example with the electrical contractor. So I would imagine- and I actually have heard from listeners of mine, that so there’s kind of a- there’s a good amount of listeners here who are LGBT folks, who are business owners, there’s a lot of people listening who are allies to the community who are also business owners. But there is a good portion of listeners who are just LGBT folks working in Corporate America. And there are a lot of statistics and studies that show that in a lot of cases, LGBT folks are still really closeted because they can’t be who they are in their workplace. So for someone who’s listening to this, and somewhat comparative to the contractor, if they’re kind of stuck in their job, they’re really just miserable, they’re not out at work, they’re just not having a good time, and they know they could be doing something better. What do you think that first small, or one better decision for today could be to help get them out of that place, in a place where they would be happier?

Maria Keiser:

You know there are so many one better decisions that could be made. I guess the first- the first better decision is just admitting that what you want to do. You know? Just coming clean with, ‘Okay this is really where I want to be.’ And then you know, obviously you don’t just come in and quit your job, and you know just do crazy stuff. But then you know, looking at what you’re currently doing. I read somewhere once, ‘Live your Dharma.’ For those that aren’t familiar with it, that’s- you know enjoying what you’re currently doing. So finding the best in it. So looking at what you’re currently doing and saying, ‘Okay what skills am I gaining here that are going to help me in this next venture? How-‘ and then start to create that plan.

Mike Keiser:

And I- that’s one, because you’re right, there are a million. Where I would start is- and maybe this sounds so obvious, but maybe first deciding that it’s okay to want to be happy. That like we don’t have to accept a life that, ‘Oh this is my fate, and it’s my fate to be in an environment where I can’t come out, and I don’t have people that I can relate to.’ So maybe first deciding, ‘Wait, it doesn’t really have to be this way. It’s okay for me to be happy.’ And then maybe taking some quiet time, even a whole day or at least a few hours and just going away. I like to just go and take a journal and say, ‘So if I were to be happy, what would my life look like?’ And that’s where I personally would start.

Maria Keiser:

And you know, it’s possible that you know, they’re feeling that they can’t come out, maybe that’s actually the environment that they’re in. But maybe it’s the story that they’ve created because they’re not completely comfortable with who they are yet. You know it could be- it could be a number of things. So you know just sitting down and just asking questions; you know what’s true about this? You know we have our own truth, but what is beyond that? What is beyond our own story?

Jenn T Grace:

And that’s actually really interesting because I just came back from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Conference in Dallas, and I was out to dinner one night with nine- so there was nine of us total. Which you get nine lesbians anywhere and it’s just going to be chaos. Which was hilarious on so many respects. But we went to some restaurant that was having like a ladies night, or I don’t even know if it was ladies night or lesbian’s night. I don’t know what it was but it was a great time. But what happened is that you have a bunch of type A business owners sitting around a table, and we’re all watching this one group of young girls trying to take a self picture of themselves, and it was just a treacherous mess. So one of our type A’s hopped up and was like, “Girls let me just take your picture.” So she went over, she was taking the picture, got into a conversation with them, and one of the women who was probably in her early twenties was working for one of the corporate partners of the NGLCC, and there’s a 140 of them so it could be anybody, and I’m definitely not going to say who it was. But what we found out, because we’re all just Chatty Cathy’s, is that this girl who’s in her young twenties living in Dallas, or living in a suburb of Dallas, even though this particular Fortune 500 company has a really strong place in terms of LGBT equality; they have the right policies, they have the right practices in place, they have an Employee Resource Group that are LGBT folks. This one particular girl didn’t feel like she could still be out. And I think most of it had to do with the geography. Because in Texas it’s a whole different ballgame than it is here in Connecticut. So there’s that element of it that she just felt like she was trapped in her job; and this is- we’re having this conversation at like 10:30 at night on like a Thursday night, and everybody’s drinking, but we were able to like get to the bottom of this girl’s story, and it makes me wonder based on what you had just said Maria, of maybe she’s still just not at that place of being comfortable with who she is, to have that larger conversation, to be able to come out at work, or if it is still the fact that she’s in conservative Texas, and that there’s that layer of mid-level management oftentimes that while the director levels and the C-level executives are all supportive of it, there’s still that mid-layer of management you have to get through, and a lot of times they’re the roadblock. So as we’re having this conversation I’m thinking of that girl and thinking, you know what could I say or have said to her to help her get herself into a better place where she’s more valued, more respected, and you know her being a lesbian has nothing to do with the job at hand.

Maria Keiser:

It has absolutely nothing to do with the job at hand. But you know first- the very first step in any of this is know and love thyself. And so once you can come to that place, you know she may discover, ‘Wow this is not the right place for me to be, because I really can’t come out here.’ So then that should probably begin her job search for her next place. You know I mean make- create a plan, know where you want to go, or at least have some idea of what that next place is for you.

Mike Keiser:

And when I was researching the HPA, I interviewed this psychologist named Barbara Bunk, and she said something to me that has stuck with me for such a long time now. She said, “I want you to always remember, that all memories are lies.” And her point being that we- you know what our memories are, what our truth is, is simply our own truth. It’s not necessarily the truth. So what Maria brought up a couple minutes ago, the best place to go with that is really asking- just asking straightforward questions around it. Like is this true? Is it my perception? Is it possibly just my perception? Because then once we have as unemotional a context around something as we can, then the girl could really answer the question logically, ‘Is it just me and the way I’m feeling about it? Or am I in a company that I probably shouldn’t be in, that really isn’t friendly to the LGBT community?’

Jenn T Grace:

And it’s really interesting, I feel like the theme keeps popping up of knowing who you are, knowing yourself, and as I said in the beginning that’s one of the takeaways I wanted. But I think that you really- and one of the two of you, if not both of you, have said it already, is that you really just need to know- know yourself and be able to be honest with yourself. And so a while back, I don’t even know how long ago, it was probably like eight or nine months ago, Maria had asked me a question, and it was one of those like not pleasant questions to be asked that really required me to think long and hard as to what the answer was. And I stewed on it for like a month and a half, and then finally when I had the ‘ah-ha’ moment of what the answer to that question was, I swear it was a game changer. But it was a matter of me being honest with myself because I could have came up with 1,000 different lies, or 1,000 different variations of the truth, but that wouldn’t have helped me grow and move on past particular things. So it’s that being honest I think is really, really important.

Mike Keiser:

It’s extremely- yeah that was extremely well said. And being honest with ourselves- and I think that does two things. Well, being honest with ourself and then being okay with ourself. We spend a lot of time wishing that we were like other people in different ways. But I think when we’re honest with ourself and okay with ourself, it also gives us more perspective to look at our flaws, or maybe that’s a bad word, areas where we need more work, where we need to focus, where we need to build our skills and things like that. So we can do it without being all emotional about it. We can just look at it with real perspective.

Maria Keiser:

Jenn I’m going to give you an example, and it seems so petty and insignificant when I tell you this, but the learning that came for me as a result of it. So you know we have kids, and what are moms supposed to? They’re supposed to be able to make chocolate chip cookies, correct? So you know I can cook pretty amazing food, and I can do it with very little effort, and I enjoy cooking. But I can’t make a chocolate chip cookie to save my life, they look like hell, they’re flat, just terrible. And it would drive me crazy, and you know you’d hear comments, ‘Well you know maybe you were careless, or maybe your ingredients, or maybe this, or maybe that.’ Well the short answer to that is my top strength is creativity, I enjoy being creative. And creativity does not, for me, mean following a recipe step by step with exact measurements. So you know when I had to come to terms with and be okay with was yeah, I was careless, but not careless in that negative sense. I’m a little more just careless in my cooking. So why don’t I leave the baking and baking of the chocolate chip cookies to someone that enjoys it more, and can follow that recipe far better than I could ever do it? And wow, what a weight off my shoulders. It’s petty, and it seems insignificant, but it bothered me for a long time. Why can someone who can cook coq au vin not be able to make a chocolate chip cookie?

Jenn T Grace:

But that makes perfect sense as to why. Because if you even add like a hair of extra salt to a recipe it screws everything up.

Maria Keiser:

I know!

Jenn T Grace:

I can’t cook at all so I’m not going to comment at all. But yeah that’s a really good- a very clear example that I think anybody could relate to. And we’ve been talking a lot about my first takeaway, which is really knowing yourself. And the second piece was what I wanted to get to, was around peer advisory boards, and Masterminds, and Round Tables, and all of the different words that we’re going to call them. But for somebody who does not yet belong to a peer advisory board, what would you say is the number one thing that they’re missing?

Maria Keiser:

Well the number one thing you’re missing is you know, it’s cliché but we are not an island, right? We are the most intelligent species on this planet as far as we know, but we didn’t get there because we have sharper claws or sharp teeth. We got there because of two things. We have our brains, and we have our community. And especially for someone who is trying to achieve something that maybe they don’t have all the answers to; if you try to go about it as an island, you’re going to do okay, but you’re going to go through it a lot harder than if you have a group of like-minded peers to help you get there faster. You know it was- when I was a young mother, you know when you are raising kids by yourself, yeah you know you looked at your kids, ‘Wow is that okay?’ You know, ‘Am I doing this right?’ And then you join a mother’s club and you realize, ‘Whoa other people’s kids do that too.’ When you’re in a business, ‘Gee I only grew 20% this year, is that- wow is that okay?’ Or you know, ‘I’m a little stale this month, is that okay?’ And it’s just that collaborative effort to A) make you feel okay, and B) help you with those ideas that can really propel you forward, because you just can’t think of everything.

Mike Keiser:

Well that’s my favorite thing about that, you just can’t think of everything. We had a fellow in a Round Table for a long time that had a ton of business experience; he had been a corporate executive, and then he was a partner in a turnaround management firm, and I flat out asked him once why he was in a Round Table. I said, “You have more business experience than frankly anybody in eCircle, why are you here?” And he said, “Oh that’s easy.” He said, “Have you ever watched somebody implement some great strategy or come up with a good idea and you’ve said to yourself, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'” He said, “Because we simply can’t think of everything. But when I’m at Round Table, somebody’s thought of it, somebody’s already experienced it, somebody’s done well at it, somebody’s screwed it up.” He said, “I just don’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time.”

Maria Keiser:

And also, you know you might get this idea, ‘I want to do this,’ but then the road ahead just seems so complicated, or you just- you know, you can’t think of every detail. And then somebody will just ask you a simple question, or they’ll tell you about how they did something similar, and now the path doesn’t look nearly as complicated as it once did.

Mike Keiser:

And then let’s not- so those are the practical, the pragmatic aspects of it. But just as important we’ve found is sometimes especially with the small business owner, there can be a sense of isolation, of feeling kind of alone. So the other thing that people like, and Maria already mentioned the like-minded peers, but there is a ton to be said for that. It seems like people really enjoy having- just having the comradery, the kinship with people that are experiencing the things that they are. And kind of, you know helping each other along, and being accountable to one another, and needling one another when they need it, and providing the support to one another when they need it. So I know it sounds all like new-agey and like sit around the fire and sing Kumbaya.

Jenn T Grace:

Kumbaya.

Mike Keiser:

But it really isn’t but I can’t undervalue the emotional aspect of it too.

Maria Keiser:

Well it’s huge, and you know the story I hear over and over again, is you know someone took it on to open their own business, right? But everyone in their family is either part of the Electrical Contractor’s Union, or they you know, have a corporate job, or they’re doing something that’s safer, that’s a little more secure. And now they’re talking about their business venture with this group, and they feel so isolated, they feel like a failure, people who are not in business are now giving them advice, and so it’s nice when you have this community of like-minded peers that can give you the support, that can help you understand, ‘No it’s okay that you’re not profitable in your first year. That you know, sometimes you do fail and that’s okay, you’re going to learn from your failures.’

Jenn T Grace:

I feel like everything you just touched upon I can say is exactly true for myself. And anyone who reads my blog or listens to my podcast, I mention my peer advisors on a regular basis. And if you read my book, there are some gems in there that come specifically from conversations with those advisors. And I remember when I was first, you know, match made into my group, I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do with a bunch of financial people?’ Because you know, I’m the creative, somewhat- I’m a total out-of-the-box thinker, I’m just all over the place sometimes, and I recognize that that is not always the skillset that’s needed for the task at hand. But then when you are sitting around a table, and you’re having these tough discussions, and for one really good example is that I was able to come to the decision that I needed to close my other business that I had with a business partner. And I think that having people asking me questions that led me to that decision was really important because I don’t know that I would have been able to pull the trigger on that really tough decision by myself. Because like you’re saying, if I were on an island, I could still be swimming down those shark-infested waters where I’m not going to get anything done. But since I had people who have no particular stake in the game, all they want is my success, then they’re able to say, “Well have you looked at it this way?” Or “Have you looked at it that way? Let’s look at the numbers, let’s look at X, Y, and Z.” To then just for me to come to the realization that I need to come to, with some sort of coaching and guidance along the way. And I have like forty different examples, but I think that being able to use them to actually come to the decision that I had to close a business, I think was probably one of the most profound ones.

Maria Keiser:

And Jenn you may have come to that decision on your own, but you know, I like to think the Round Table is just providing you with the information and experiences so you can do it in a more efficient fashion. So you know you didn’t have to spend the next three years thinking, ‘Wow, this is not working out for me.’ You were able to stop the bleeding much sooner.

Mike Keiser:

And one of the things you brought up I think is really a vital point, is you know whether you have an informal board of advisors, you join a more formal peer advisory board, it’s something along- whatever it is, make sure it’s people that have no other agenda. That you brought up a really important point, to just have a group of people with no agenda other than to help each other be better.

Maria Keiser:

Right and you know I think one of the key pieces to the group, besides you know making sure you’re a committed group of like-minded people who don’t have an agenda, is to make sure you have a confidential environment. You want to be secure that you can really come in, take off the mask, say it how it is, and nothing that you discuss in that room is going to be spoken about outside of that room. I was actually somewhere this weekend, and it was- there was a delicate matter taking place, and the individual who was running the organization was providing details to me about things that I really shouldn’t have known. And although you know, he had a great establishment, and I was enjoying myself, I couldn’t help but feel like I can’t trust this environment, and I probably won’t want to come back.

Mike Keiser:

Yeah we’ve had once or twice somebody start a conversation in Round Table with the sentence, “What I’m about to tell you I haven’t even told my spouse yet.” So that’s got to be confidential.

Maria Keiser:

Right, and it has to be respected. So you know we read a confidentiality agreement at the beginning of every meeting, and I’m sure it seems trite to you by now after four years of reading the same damn paragraph. But we have to know that everything that is spoken in that room stays there. Not even a glimmer of what is said in that room unless you know, whoever discussed it wants to open up that can of- you know wants to open up that conversation outside of that room.

Mike Keiser:

And that actually adds a couple of challenges. Because Maria and I don’t even tell each other what goes on in a Round Table, and from a marketing and sales standpoint it can be a challenge because people will say, “Well could I sit in on a Round Table?”

Maria Keiser:

Nope.

Mike Keiser:

Nope, you can’t. “Well what do people talk about?” So it’s really hard to- it’s a challenge from a sales aspect. But yeah, so even if somebody in California or Japan is listening to this, if you form a little board of advisors of your own, boy confidentiality is key.

Maria Keiser:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

And I would imagine that there’s a lot of people who can’t fit it in their budget to have a formal advisory board. So I think that what you just said is if you have an informal advisory board, which I actually have been to have an informal one as well, and it’s just a group of women that I know across the country who I know that I can call them when I’m having a particular issue. Like there’s no- and I’m the same person for them, should it be some sort of either business or personal related issue. The main point being is that you just gave a really good piece of advice of if you’re going to set out and try to create an advisory board of your own, maybe because you don’t have it in the budget to be in some sort of formal setting, to make sure that the confidentiality piece is first and foremost at the top of that list, probably followed by ‘this person doesn’t have another agenda.’

Maria Keiser:

Right.

Jenn T Grace:

Fair to say?

Maria Keiser:

And you know, and as far as keeping the conversation flowing, especially if you want to meet consistently you know, having- we call it our group charter, right? So as a group we create our boundaries, our rules. And you know one of them being you know, do we do business with one another? You know and in some groups, that’s fine. But you know thinking about it from this standpoint, if me now the vendor, I’m going to open up my kimono, I’m going to open up my cans of worms to my now customer, will I still be able to do that? We had a customer that was dying, and you know I found out too late because at every meeting, “Oh things are great, things are wonderful, it’s this, it’s that.” You know there’s a big difference between saying, “You know yeah, business is growing, I’ve picked up two new clients this month.” Well that’s great, right? Or you could say, “Business is growing, I’ve picked up two new clients this month, but it’s still not enough, what do I do?” And that’s where that confidentiality piece helps the business owner get a little more perspective.

Mike Keiser:

So for the person I think that is going to do it informally, and whether they’re a business owner or not, you know because I think people of all walks of life, all types of professions can benefit from it. I would also recommend not doing it with people that you already have a personal relationship with, like your best friend, or your business partner, or your life partner. Probably I would say- because you do become good friends with the people in your advisory board, but you still want to make sure that they’re all people that you have no inhibitions about what you’re going to talk about.

Maria Keiser:

Right.

Mike Keiser:

So if it’s let’s say- let’s say the thing you need to talk about is your partner, you know that day. So you want to just be in a situation where everybody just feels free to talk about whatever they need to talk about.

Jenn T Grace:

So you have given some really awesome actionable type of advice, and this has been fabulous, and we’re definitely encroaching on the fifty minute mark, which is great because I think we’ve had some great content in here. But before I let you go, I want you each to just answer, or provide what your number one piece of advice for anyone- a small business owner, someone in a corporate environment, listening to this. What would just your number one piece of advice be to them in regards to business?

Mike Keiser:

I would say be very clear on what it is you’re going after, and be extremely proactive every day. That luck sometimes plays a role, but don’t count on luck, count on your own proactivity.

Maria Keiser:

And I guess it’s kind of similar, I would say be deliberate every day. Notice what you’re doing. You know, go into that day not necessarily with an agenda or an expectation, but pay attention. What’s happening right now? Why am I feeling this way right now? What is the best- how I can be my very best today? That might not even come close to what you did yesterday, maybe yesterday you knocked it out of the park, but today you’re not feeling well. But what’s your best today?

Mike Keiser:

So mindful activity.

Maria Keiser:

Mindful activity.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s all about perspective.

Maria Keiser:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s really interesting. So this has been fabulous, I’m so happy to have you on, I’ve been wanting you on for quite a long time. And you know before I let you really go, I want you to definitely have a chance to let people know where they can find you.

Mike Keiser:

Well an easy place is just to go to www.MentalCompass.com. So yeah, that’s it, www.MentalCompass.com. There’s some free stuff on there, they can take the Are You a Peak Performer Assessment, you can download a free introduction to the Human Performance Academy, it’s about a half hour audio program, you can listen to the podcast from Mental Compass; so I would say that’s a good place to go if they want to know us a little.

Maria Keiser:

Yeah and you have any questions, our contact information is there, and you can certainly contact us. Jenn one thing, we’ve talked a lot about just you know, looking at earlier when you were talking about that girl you were at the bar with. We have an exercise to kind of help look at you know, ‘what is it?’ You know and actually the exercise is called, ‘What Just Happened?’ So if any of your listeners are interested, have them email you and we’ll send them a copy of the exercise, ‘What Just Happened?’

Jenn T Grace:

Oh, that’s good. Yeah I have done that exercise and it’s very eye-opening. It makes you break out fact from fiction.

Maria Keiser:

Yes.

Mike Keiser:

Yes.

Jenn T Grace:

Very good. Well-

Mike Keiser:

This has been a total blast, I had a great time.

Jenn T Grace:

I know.

Mike Keiser:

Thanks a million.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, and I think Maria you should set up a new email address that’s QueenMaria@ecircle.com.

Maria Keiser:

Queen Maria. Actually on the Today Show this morning, there’s a tee-shirt that I saw that said, ‘Queen of Everything,’ and I told Michael that I wanted that tee-shirt.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I think that may be on your Christmas list. Well thank you so much, we will definitely talk soon.

Mike Keiser:

You bet, thanks Jenn, see you!

Maria Keiser:

Thanks Jenn.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you.

Maria Keiser:

Bye bye.

Jenn T Grace:

So there you have it, my interview with Mike and Maria Keiser of the Entrepreneur Circle based here in Connecticut. I hope you enjoyed what you heard, and if you liked this podcast, I would love for you to take a moment, open up Twitter- or actually, don’t open up Twitter. Go to www.JennTGrace.com/love. What that will do is pre-populate a tweet in Twitter, and send it out to your followers letting your followers know that you loved this podcast. And really my intention behind it is to get more people to know that this podcast exists so that way they too can learn how to do business with and market themselves to the LGBT community. So again, I thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I am always so appreciative of your listenership and your interactiveness, and reaching out and engaging with me, I love all of it so keep on doing it, keep on listening, and I will talk to you next time.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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