My Unshackled Sherpa!
As I mentioned in episode 13, I grew up in the country. In the early 80s, when I was about 14, many things happened all at once. My paternal grandfather passed away. Due to the economic recession, in addition to emotional and financial stress, we lost our home. My parents legally separated and my mom ended up on welfare with no place to stay. Not knowing where to go, my mom bought my grandad’s tiny two bedroom house in the village with the help of my dad’s brother, Uncle Paulo. We made the best with what we had. My three brothers slept in one bedroom, and my sister and I shared the other bedroom. The living room got closed off and became my mom’s bedroom. The kitchen became the gathering place. We were living on top of each other.
My Uncle Paulo was a very successful entrepreneur. And his wife, Aunt Gisele, was one of those loving, singing angels. It was so nice when I got the chance to visit them. It was a change from my mom’s overstressed energy. Every time our aunt saw us, she had a way of making us feel loved and welcomed. And when she talked to us, her voice was like a song. It was in my teen years that I consciously chose to model my aunt’s loving and nurturing behaviors. From where I stood, my uncle and aunt had it all and I wanted to be like them.
THE HAVE AND HAVE-NOTS
In seeing how they lived compared to us, I quickly learned the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” At home, when we wanted something that was considered non-essential, the discussion went straight into “we have no money for this” or “this is not for us.”
I grew up with the notion that “having money” was for others, not for us. There was a division with the wealthy on one side, the poor on the other. Crossing the line was not even an option. There was no judgment towards wealthy people; we simply assumed we would never be part of the wealthy circle.
I continued to think that way well into my 30s until I came across one of Robert Kiyosaki’s quotes about how poor people always say they have no money, while rich people ask themselves how they can get more money.
Of course, the bigger question was, “How can I put more money in my wallet?” In my early 40s, I saw a huge difference between my uncle and my dad. I saw my uncle and his family as healthy, loving entrepreneurs. My dad, on the other hand, had made so many poor choices in life, so he had very little to offer. The main difference between these two men was how my uncle chose to listen to his wife’s wisdom.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP
Another insight I’ve learned, and this comes from Napoleon Hill—although many wealthy individuals will say the same—is the importance of mentorship and masterminding with like-minded individuals.
In April 2016, I got the opportunity to enroll in a mastermind program. I was pretty excited about joining such a group, as I was facing so many challenges and needed counseled advice from successful people who understood what it takes to build a world-class brand.
During my first mastermind meeting, I asked one of the leaders about my business concerns. He suggested I connect with Aaron Young, who had more experience with setting up corporations, as he owned several companies.
Truthfully, I was terrified of connecting with this millionaire. My childhood mindset reminded me of that fine line between the ones that “have” and the “have-nots.” At that time, I didn’t know that my low self-worth was doing the talking for me. I also didn’t know that I had a false belief that made me think that I was only as valuable as the amount of money I had in the bank account. Knowing my bank account was suffering, I didn't dare reaching out to Aaron. To justify my lack of action, I filled my conscious mind with preconceived ideas, such as, “Why would this successful businessman waste his time on me?”
A month after the mastermind event, I attended CEO Space. On the second night, I was invited to go to a private gathering in a suite. I was very anxious going there because I knew the room was going to be full of wealthy individuals.
Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I went anyway. I knew nobody. Next thing I knew, I was sitting on a bench that was designed to seat one but because of the crowded room, this fellow asked me if he could squeeze in. I didn’t know who he was, but he had a friendly face, so I told him sure. He then introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Aaron Young.” I smiled and introduced myself too.
I quickly explained that I had been given his name as someone to talk to, and now it looked like the opportunity had arrived. Of course, I didn’t tell him the truth, which was that I was too embarrassed to connect with a wealthy man. Regardless of how I felt a few weeks before, now that he was next to me, I had the chance to ask him the questions I had. He did his best in providing counseled advice. What I quickly realized was that Aaron wasn’t at all what I expected. He didn’t come across as a “big shot” guy. Quite the contrary. He was a down-to-earth, nice fellow. I learned that he and his wife had been married for almost 30 years and they had five children together. We got to talking about life in general.
At one point, I remember telling him how Hollywood movies like to portray wealthy individuals as selfish people. My awareness grew that night because I witnessed, for the first time, how upper-class individuals interacted with one another and with me. Everyone was kind, generous, and had a genuine interest in wanting to help one another.
THE ICEBERG WILL MELT
The next day, Aaron spoke on stage. He formally introduced himself, said he was the president of Laughlin Associates, a company that forms corporations and LLCs, as well as offering lawsuit protection, tax planning, exit strategies, etc. The company also does corporate compliance. Then Aaron shared his why.
In 2003, he was indicted by the IRS on conspiracy charges. The IRS said, “You knew or should have known what this other company was doing.” Aaron thought this judgment was so stupid, and he went into battle. He spent about $2 million and three and a half years fighting this "knew or should have known” thing, and in the end, he ran out of money.
The IRS has over a 99.3% conviction rate. Aaron took the plea bargain and spent 14 months and one week in federal prison—not for something he did, not for taxes he didn't pay, not for some problem in his company.
There was no restitution, there was no fraud, there was no penalty; he just had to go to jail for something “he should have known.” Aaron’s big why has been clear ever since: “I cannot let other entrepreneurs not know critical things that they need to know to make sure their business is safe.”
The day after his presentation, I met with him for breakfast, and he shared another of his stories. It was before he faced the judge. It was near the end of his ordeal, when it looked inevitable that he was going to go to jail. By that time, Aaron didn’t know who he could trust. He said, “When you fight against the IRS, you do not know who works for you and who works for them.”
One day, he met with a Canadian lawyer to see if there would be any possible alternative. The lawyer could see that Aaron didn’t look well at all. He told Aaron, “You feel like there’s an iceberg trapped in your chest.” Aaron said yes. The fellow understood his pain and added, “The pain is real. Just know the iceberg will melt one day.” I don’t know how Aaron knew I needed to hear that story. When Aaron shared this story, his iceberg had already melted; mine was still there.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD
That night, I sat near a water fountain in the backyard of the hotel. I was reflecting on the past six months and everything I’d learned, as well as Aaron’s story. Then I realized one of the reasons I wasn’t getting the result I was seeking was because I was denying it. Unconsciously, I kept hearing my mom’s voice saying, “Being rich is not for us.”
I realized how I spent most of my life hiding and looking for excuses as to why I wasn’t successful. However, this was the past. I congratulated myself on being in that hotel at that moment. It meant I was willing to change and improve. I had made huge progress in getting to know people.
All that said, the climb wasn’t over. I wondered how I could ever be successful with my business. It seemed the path I was on was leading me nowhere. When Aaron was facing his dark hour, he had his wife and children by his side to comfort him. He was also established in the business world and had a network of friends.
I had no entrepreneur friends. I felt alone, which made sense, as I chose to hide. A thought came to me. No matter who you are, when you are faced with challenges, you cannot trade places with anyone. It doesn’t matter if you have a room full of friends sympathizing with you or if you are alone. In the end, you have to face your challenges. On that thought, I closed my eyes and let the tears flow. It was all I could do in that instant. The unbeaten path I chose was getting more challenging than ever. Still, with my eyes closed, I asked God for a better tomorrow. At that moment, I received spatters of cold water coming from the fountain. Teary-eyed, I looked at the sky and said, “Yes. The iceberg is melting.”
When I returned home, I faced more financial and emotional challenges. I dealt with each situation the best I could at the time. I kept in touch with Aaron via Facebook. In October 2017, I saw one of Aaron’s Facebook posts promoting his event called Magnify your Wealth. My intuition told me to go, but my bank account told me otherwise. So I chose the latter. A few weeks later, I received an email from one of Aaron’s employees. She said she had a ticket to attend the Magnify your Wealth event and asked me if I wanted to go. I gratefully accepted.
At one point, during the event, I sat down with Aaron. I gave him an update on where I was with my business. He gave me some business advice, mainly related to sales. Letting go of all my fear, I said, “Aaron, I suck at being an entrepreneur.” He felt the pain I was in and switched his talk from business strategies to mindset. Sometimes, what you need most from a mentor is just the feeling you are understood. From that moment I thought, “I want to model this man.”
THE INNER CIRCLE
At the end of the event, during Aaron’s last talk, he said the future of this country is in the hands of the small business owners. They are not equipped to scale. Aaron felt compelled to do something about it. He was struggling with that somewhat because he prided himself on being unshackled, and he chose to build a lifestyle that gave him the freedom to travel. During that event, he felt compelled to help more individuals and created a private mentoring/mastermind group called “The Inner Circle.”
Hiring Aaron as a mentor wasn’t cheap. I thought about it overnight. Then it dawned on me: it was time for me to play in the big leagues. Did I wish to continue with my old programming of doing without? Or should I find a way to work with Aaron? I chose to cross that imaginary line. I invested in Aaron because I knew I couldn’t do this alone. Aaron became my sounding board.
In the past four months, I’ve been working diligently on my business. However, there are times that I wonder if I’m on the right path. But then I get on Aaron’s call, and for some reason, what he talks about is confirmation that I’m doing the right thing.
Aaron also shared that no matter what you do in life, selling yourself is always challenging. If you are passionate about what you do and you believe in what you offer, you are simply having a conversation. You’re simply helping someone. When you are in alignment with what you do, you are no longer selling; you are simply sharing.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR
To be an entrepreneur takes courage and being willing to learn how a business operates. During the development stage, there is only one way to push through; it’s to stay put and do the work.
Just like an aspiring author needs to write his book before he can enjoy the reward, I have to stay “inside” and do my work. Staying focused is a constant challenge. It requires discipline to do the work.
In short, I’m glad I’ve invested in Aaron and his wisdom. It’s a huge opportunity for my growth because he is my eyes while I cannot see and he is my ears while I cannot hear.
I found entrepreneurship is like a 1000 piece blank puzzle. Clarity creates the picture. The image of the puzzle comes with the power of your mind. Sometimes, your limited belief prevents you from seeing the full picture. That is when you need help from others who are a little further ahead, who can suggest a new approach. Once you have a clear image, the next critical step is to take action.
I was looking at one of Lady Gaga’s videos the other day. I was amazed at the art behind her work. It takes creative talent as well as strategic action to create a 4-minute video. Think for a moment about all the work that goes into it, from writing the song and the music to choosing the scene location, costume design, choreograph, and makeup.
One thing I know for sure: to be successful in business, you need a team. Nobody can climb Mount Everest alone!
Aaron, I want to thank you for sharing all your knowledge and wisdom and having faith in me. You are my favorite “Unshackled Sherpa”!
Thank you for reading!
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Listen to the Episode 015 https://nadiafleury.com/my-unshackled-sherpa/
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