Michael Hyatt Transcript

Clint Betts

Michael, thank you so much for joining us. Really, it's an honor. As I was researching you and doing some reading on your work and your life and everything you've done, I noticed that, hey, I own a Full Focus Planner. How incredible is that?

Michael Hyatt

That is awesome. That's very —

Clint Betts

I didn't buy this for this interview. I want everyone to know, I did not buy this for this interview, I legitimately own one of these things. I think it's incredible what you've done here and what you've built. What was the idea behind this? And let me set it up just a little bit more.

We live in this digital world, everything's in the cloud. There's Ulysses, there's Ghost, there's all these different writing platforms. Day One is kind of a planner platform actually from Utah, but the physical planner, man, that goes against the grain. Why’s that?

Michael Hyatt

Yeah, it does, because for most of my career, I've been a digital guy. I did my task list, my calendar, or all that digitally, but one of the things we started noticing probably back in about 2016 was a lot of people were being so distracted, because they were in this digital environment where notifications are going off, there's multiple windows open, and people were having a difficult time focusing.

My company's really specialized in the topics of goal achievement and productivity. So we read a book called The Revenge of Analog, and it talked about how physical books were coming back, vinyl records were coming back, board games were coming back. People wanted something that was not digital, and we thought, perfect.

This is the perfect solution for people that want to achieve their goals and get more done, at least for their goal planning and for their productivity, get them out of that digital environment, get them into a physical space where they could actually have a physical planner. So that was the beginning of it, and since that time we've sold about 1,000,002 copies of that planner.

Clint Betts

Hey, I'm one of those, just so you know.

Michael Hyatt

Thank you.

Clint Betts

You've lived a life and you've had a career that I'm very jealous of. First of all, you live in Nashville, Tennessee, the greatest city in the United States. It's such a wonderful place, and it looks like you play the guitar, 'cause you got an incredible guitar rack there. I mean, tell us about you. What gets you excited? What gets you passionate?

Michael Hyatt

Well, first of all, the guitars are standard issue if you live in Nashville. They just —

Clint Betts

You have to have those?

Michael Hyatt

Give them to you when you move in.

Clint Betts

That makes sense.

Michael Hyatt

So, it's part of it.

Clint Betts

I don't know though, you got the Fender Strat. I mean, is the Strat normal for Tennessee? Oh, is that a Telecaster?

Michael Hyatt

Yeah.

Clint Betts

Oh, okay.

Michael Hyatt

No, this is a Strat, but a Telecaster would probably be the more typical thing here.

Clint Betts

Yeah, that's what I was going to say.

Michael Hyatt

Yeah.

Clint Betts

Yeah, the Tele.

Michael Hyatt

So basically, I've always had this great love for books, and so in college I got the chance in my senior year to work at a small publishing company in my college town. I graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and I got this opportunity to work at this small publishing company, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, I've died and gone to heaven. This is the ultimate to work for a book publisher."

So, I spent almost my entire career up until 2011 in the book publishing industry. So I would say still to this day, it's ideas and books and the transmission of those ideas that still gets me excited. If I look back over the course of my life, and it might've been Charlie "Tremendous" Jones that said this, but basically you can mark your life by the people you met and the books you've read. Those are typically the things that change the trajectory of my life or our lives, and that was certainly true for me. So still to this day, I love books.

Clint Betts

What was the first product you put out at Full Focus?

Michael Hyatt

The first one was a book I wrote right after I'd left the book publishing industry. I was the CEO of a company called Thomas Nelson Publishers here in Nashville was the company you cited in your intro, and we sold the company to Harper Collins. I used it as a chance to make my exit and do what I'd always wanted to do, which was to speak and to write and be on the other side of the book part of it, which is creating the books.

So, I wrote a book called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It was all about how I built my blog from nothing to where I had hundreds of thousands of readers, and it was really a book about how anybody could use social media and some of these modern tools to build a platform and have greater influence. So that book became a New York Times bestseller, and that was kind of the launching of my company.

Clint Betts

How has publishing online in particular changed since you started your blog and grew it that way? I mean, if you were to rewrite that book again, would a lot of those principles apply, or would you be basically starting a whole new book?

Michael Hyatt

No, I think a lot of it would apply. Shockingly, that book came out I think in 2012, and it still sells really well, and the principles are forever. But the thing that I would cover if I were writing that book again, I would've paid more attention to Facebook, to Instagram, even to TikTok.

Of course, TikTok wasn't a thing, Instagram wasn't even a thing when I wrote it, but Facebook was, and admittedly I didn't cover that probably as well as I should have, but the principles are still the same, particularly as it relates to blogging. I'd probably talk more about podcasting as well, 'cause I think podcasting is so amazing in terms of the impact that you can have for the investment you make. It's tremendous.

Clint Betts

Well, you have an incredible podcast.

Michael Hyatt

Thank you.

Clint Betts

Did I see that you started that in 2017? Is that right?

Michael Hyatt

No, we started that almost immediately. I've had several incarnations of it, but I started that in 2012 as well. Initially it was called “This Is Your Life.”

Clint Betts

And now it's called “Lead to Win,” right?

Michael Hyatt

Well, actually it's called "Business Accelerator."

Clint Betts

Oh, "Business Accelerator?"

Michael Hyatt

Yeah.

Clint Betts

Yeah, man, I'm sorry, my research here is awful. I'm going to put these papers away, we're just going to talk. All right, what about newsletters and things like that as it relates to publishing and the importance of that versus blogging? I mean, doesn't it feel like newsletters are going to blogging 2.0 in a way?

Michael Hyatt

Yeah, I think so —

Clint Betts

Which is weird, because it's probably blogging 1.0. It's weird, because it's email. That's the weird part.

Michael Hyatt

It is weird. Literally when I started, I mean, I can remember back in the 1990s, guys were literally publishing physical newsletters that got mailed to their customer's homes. Then of course we had email, we had blogs, and we've kind of come full circle now where we send newsletters by email.

But our company has a big newsletter that we send out once a week, it goes to about a half a million people. I still blog, still write on the blog, but I would say the newsletter is kind of the main focus outside of the podcast in terms of building the platform and getting the word out.

Clint Betts

At what point did you start like, hey, I've built up an audience here, there are people who are excited about the things I'm publishing, putting out. At what point did you decide and now I'm going to start selling products inside of this company?

Michael Hyatt

Well, as it turns out, blogging didn't pay much, if anything, and the same thing with podcasting. It's great, I remember when my book platform came out, I had a conversation with somebody that was very successful in my space. Had been a blogger and a podcaster and was very successful, and he was going to help me promote the book.

The first question he had was, "Okay, what's the upsell? In other words, if you sell a person a book, what's the next step?" I said, "I don't have a next step." He said, "Oh my gosh." He said, "You're making a huge mistake." He said, "You've got to be able to monetize past this book."

Well, that was the beginning of Platform University. We started this membership site, and that was a way to monetize, and frankly, to help more people than I could help by way of consulting, because when you try to consult or you try to coach people, you're trading time for dollars and your bandwidth is limited, because you can't scale yourself, there's not a lot of leverage in that.

But a membership site, there's all kinds of mechanisms for doing that. But Platform University, which we subsequently sold, was the first step into trying to monetize that online traffic.

Clint Betts

Yeah, it's interesting. What advice do you have for people who are trying to build communities and be community leaders? 'Cause what you've really built here is a community with your content and stories at the heart of it. What advice do you have for folks trying to do that?

Michael Hyatt

Man, I just think serving people. If you can figure out the people in your target audience, what they really aspire to, what they dream about accomplishing, what they wish they had, and then if you can figure out what are the obstacles that are keeping them from getting that, and you can help them remove those obstacles and make progress toward their goals, I mean, you can build any kind of business. That's basically all I've done.

One of the things I realized, and one of the things I pivoted to from Platform University was I realized that people have goals, they have aspirations, but very few people write down their goals. Even those that write down their goals don't do it in a way that facilitates them achieving those goals, and so I started to do a deep dive into goal achievement research and what the experts had found.

Out of that, I wrote my book, Your Best Year Ever, which is still to this day my best- selling book. The basic premise behind it was if you could make this next year your best year ever, what would it take? What would it look like? To think through all the different domains of life, not just your work life, but your spiritual life, your family life, your friendships, your community involvement, what would it look like to have your best year ever at each of those major domains in life?

So that became that book, and then I started researching productivity, 'cause I thought, once you've got goals, then you've got to be able to work productively toward the achievement of that goal. You have to be able to execute. So out of that came my book, Free to Focus, and I had a lot of productivity hacks and productivity frameworks and so forth. Out of those two books came the Full Focus Planner, which you were holding up a moment ago.

So it kind of all worked together, but that's how I monetized it and how I tried to help the people that were my target audience overcome the challenges they were facing, which had to do with goal achievement and productivity and help them get the dreams that they wanted.

Clint Betts

When you're talking about goal achievement and productivity, it seems to me like if you pull it up just a little bit, you're talking about self-leadership. What have you thought about, what have you learned as it pertains to leadership, both leading others and leading yourself?

Michael Hyatt

Well, you hit something that's near and dear to my heart and that's self-leadership. If you can't lead yourself, you can't lead anybody else. As it turns out, the most difficult person to lead is yourself.

Clint Betts

Exactly.

Michael Hyatt

So if you can really focus on honing that self-leadership, then it kind of gives you the cache, the credibility for leading other people. This is why I think leaders have got to have integrity, and they've got to have rock solid values, because like it or not, you're going to replicate yourself in the lives of the people that you're trying to lead, which means that the good traits that you have are going to be passed on to the people you're leading, but the bad traits will too.

So, it's important that as leaders we spend as much time working on ourselves as we try to develop other people. It begins with self-leadership, but I would go a step further, Clint, and just say that self-leadership I think begins with self-awareness. Just being aware of the ripples that we create in the world, the effect that we have on other people. If we can learn to be aware of that and to self-regulate, we can have all kinds of impact in the world, but it starts with that self-leadership.

Clint Betts

You said something really interesting there that I wonder if we could double-click on real quick, and that is that you replicate yourself in the people you lead. Tell us more about that. That's really a fascinating way to look at that, and I think it's accurate.

Michael Hyatt

Well, I think I learned this from my own father. So my dad was in the Korean War, he was injured, almost killed, was in a coma for six months and had some shrapnel to the head, which created some neurological damage, which gave him a lifelong limp. He's 90 years old now and still limps terribly. In fact, he's confined to a wheelchair now. But when I was growing up as a little boy, he limped. He just was not able to walk without limping.

Well, at about four or five years of age, I was limping. Finally, my mom recognized what was going on and she said, "Hey, Michael, you don't need to limp. Your dad limps, because he was hurt in the war."

Well, I'd unconsciously picked that behavior up from my dad. I just didn't make a conscious decision to limp — I did it because there I was observing my dad, somebody I admired, somebody I respected, somebody I wanted to one day be like, and I replicated his behavior.

Well, that happens in organizations all over the world. You walk into a company and you find that the people use the same kind of language, the same kind of phrases, the same kind of intonation that the leader uses, and the values get replicated downstream, because values are more caught than taught. So that's why it's so critically important for leadership, for people that are in positions of leadership, for executive teams to be committed to living the values they espouse.

So just coming up with a set of values and hanging them on the lobby wall, it's not enough. Those have got to become incarnate in your own life if you're going to have the effect of replicating those values through the organization. It's the most powerful way to make sure that the values get passed on is to just live them. There's the challenge and there's the promise.

Clint Betts

What advice would you have for leaders starting companies or maybe feels like, hey, our values are out of whack, or maybe they haven't fully defined their values yet, how would you tell them this is how you define that, this is how you go through that process?

Michael Hyatt

Well, I think you've got to get together and spend some time thinking about this. In fact, it's not just your values, but it's what I would call your core ideology. You need to have a mission, you need to have a clear vision. I call it a vision script. I wrote an entire book about that called The Vision Driven Leader, and then you need to have your core values.

Those become the philosophical bedrock for the growth of your organization, it drives everything related to your company. It's not the products, it's not the services. All that's important, but that's got to rest on a foundation that's rock solid, and that's that core ideology.

We encourage our clients to begin that in the strategic planning process that is a part of their routine strategic planning, that if they don't have one already, they create a mission statement, they create a vision script, they create core values. If they've already got those things, they need to revisit those at least once a year, tweak them, make them more relevant if necessary, but kind of keep it updated, because all three of those things are really living documents that need to reflect how you perceive reality at any given time.

But I think in terms of those values, I think getting in a room and just asking one another on the executive team and say, "Okay, what are the things that we really value? What are the things that we want to be able to pass on and make those the attributes of our organization, so that even our customers, so that vendors, so anybody we're linked to can see those values alive and lived out inside of our organization?"

Clint Betts

Who are some leaders that you admire? Either ones that we would know or ones we wouldn't know?

Michael Hyatt

Well, I think somebody that's influenced me more than probably anybody is Dr. Stephen Covey, and John Maxwell is another one, bestselling author. I had the privilege of being his publisher for, let me just think here for a second, about 15 years. Talked to him a couple weeks ago, still a great friend of mine, but he's one of my go-to guys if I've got a question or I've got a concern, or I just want to say, okay, what does leadership look like? But those would be two of the main ones for me.

Clint Betts

I was going to ask you about Dr. Covey. I'm in Utah, which is where FranklinCovey is headquartered and where Dr. Covey comes from and all that. They've kind of become a training platform and things like that, but I was going to ask you about him, even outside of now knowing he's someone you look up to, but he started doing planners, those FranklinCovey planners back in the day.

Was that in any way an inspiration for the Full Focus Planner?

Michael Hyatt

Well, it sort of was, but I've been a planner user since I was in college, and so that was —

Clint Betts

Did you ever use his?

Michael Hyatt

I did use his later on, but initially I used one called the Seven Star Diary. So, then I graduated from that to ... what was the other one that ... there was one that had time in the name, and then I eventually got to the Franklin Planner, and then when Franklin and Covey merged, then I used the FranklinCovey Planner.

But the thing about it was that those stores, this was back before Apple Stores or before computers, those retail stores that FranklinCovey had were amazing. I used to go in there and just geek out on all the productivity stuff, and then they shut those down. I don't know if you remember that, but I don't even remember what year it was. But honestly, I think they did it probably too early. If they just hung in there, they didn't realize that there was going to be this entire revolution of going back to physical planners.

There's a lot of planners that are out there in the market today. Ours is probably the bestselling, I don't know how it stacks up against FranklinCovey to this day. I looked at their page the other day, looked at their planners, and they look pretty much like what I was using back in the '90s, but they definitely were an influence and all those planners were. Day Runner was another company that was a big influence on me as well.

Clint Betts

Oh yeah, interesting. Tell me about Nashville. Why Nashville? How did you get there?

Michael Hyatt

Well, I came here for a job. So, I came here in 1984 to take a position in marketing at Thomas Nelson Publishers. Thomas Nelson Publishers had been in business since 1798. It started in Edinburgh, Scotland. At one time it was the largest English language publisher in the world, but by the time my predecessor bought the American operation, it had really fallen on hard times.

It was a very small company, it was doing about $5 million a year or so. Very small, but he was able to build it up, and then I succeeded him and we were able to build it up to about $250 million a year. When I left the company, when we sold it to Harper Collins, it was the seventh-largest publisher in America. It's gone on to do really well, but Nashville was kind of a surprise.

I lived in Texas, I grew up in Nebraska, moved to Texas when I was in high school, and went to college there. Then we came to Nashville when I took that job at Thomas Nelson, and we've been in Nashville ever since. In fact, I consider myself a Tennessean at this point. I've been here long enough.

Clint Betts

Yeah, I mean, for sure. Yeah, what is it about that city? I mean, isn't it the fastest growing metropolitan area in the whole country?

Michael Hyatt

Well, I don't know, it feels like it sometimes.

Clint Betts

Yeah, yeah.

Michael Hyatt

We're certainly facing the challenges with infrastructure and all the rest, but I think it's an amazing, amazing place. First of all, we have no state income tax, so like Florida and Texas, it attracts a lot of people, but it's just a great cultural center too.

We have a very vibrant music scene, and not just country music as you might think, but healthcare is centered here, there's a lot of banking that's centered here. So a lot of corporations are moving here, including financial companies out of New York are moving here, because again, I think people are looking for a place where there's good wholesome family values where people aren't crazy, and where the taxation makes it possible to really grow a business and grow a family and do all the other things that people want to do.

Clint Betts

As you think about productivity and creativity, I wonder maybe it would be useful for us to hear what's a typical day in your life? How do you get so much done?

Michael Hyatt

Well, I guess first of all, I value my time. I personally see myself as a steward of everything I've been given. So whether it's money, time, relationships, I feel like I'm a steward with those things, which means that I'm essentially managing them for somebody else. In my particular case, I see myself as managing these things for God. These things are loans from God for me to manage, and I want to leave them in better shape than I found them.

Another lesson I learned from my dad. I can remember one time borrowing the neighbor's lawn mower when ours was broken, and my dad said to me, he said, "Son, you need to return that in better shape than you found it, because you don't own it, it's just being loaned to you." So when I finished, he made sure that I washed the thing, that I filled it back up with gas and that I gave it back to our next door neighbor.

So I see myself as a steward of everything that I've been given, and I think time is certainly one of those things. So to me, having a productive day begins the night before. What I mean by that is there's nothing that is more conducive to a productive day than having had a good night's sleep. I think so many people in our society, largely because of devices, largely because of all the distractions, they're not sleeping as well as they used to.

So for me, getting at least seven hours sleep a night, preferably eight hours sleep a night, I'm more focused, more creative, more productive when that happens. Then I typically get up at 5:00 in the morning, I have a morning ritual. By the way, we talk about that in the Full Focus Planner. There's a place for you to map out your rituals, and we advocate a morning ritual, workday startup ritual, workday shutdown ritual, and then an evening ritual. At least those four.

But for me, the morning ritual is, okay, how can I set myself up to win today? So, what does that look like? For me, I pray first thing, I read the Bible first thing, I read something else, some book that I'm reading, I exercise hard, and then I pretty much get dressed and I'm ready for the day.

Then one of my best hacks is I've got a killer executive assistant. My assistant Jim is a great compliment to me, because I tend to be somebody that's more visionary, more spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, somebody that's not great on the follow- through side of things. Jim is the exact opposite, Jim is fantastic on follow-through, and so as a team, we make sure that it gets all done.

So I think this is one of the best kept secrets out there for leaders that want to lead more effectively and be more productive, you really have got to have a team that you trust and that starts with an executive assistant that's competent and dependable and is committed to helping you succeed. If you can find that, there's no end to what you can accomplish.

Clint Betts

Thank you so much for joining the show and talking to us today. Seriously, your insights are incredible, what you've done is incredible.

Michael Hyatt

Thank you.

Clint Betts

Yeah, you're a legend in this space.

Michael, we end every interview with the same question, because at CEO.com we believe the chances one gives is just as important as the chances one takes. I wonder, as you think back to where you are today, who gave you a chance or what people would've given you a chance to have been able to become who you are today?

Michael Hyatt

Well, this is a little bit of a funny story, but I majored in philosophy, which I don't know if you've checked recently, but there's not a lot of jobs open for philosophy majors. So I recognized that right as I finished school, and so I thought, "Well, what am I going to do?" So I went out, I applied to this small publishing company for the position of marketing director.

So my boss, Robert, is his name, and we're still dear friends to this day, but he decided to take a chance on me, and he said to me, he said, "Look, you don't have any experience, but I like you and I feel like you're going to hustle and figure it out, so I'm going to give you a chance."

Funny twist to this, Clint, was that he was not able to pay me what I really felt like I needed, but he said, "Look, you don't have any experience, you don't have any education related to this, so let's do this for 90 days, and if you could really be successful, then I'll give you the raise." This was back in the '80s, so he was paying me $27,000 a year, and I needed $30,000.

Well, fast-forward, 90 days were done, called me to his office. He said, "You've killed it, you've done a phenomenal job." He said, "But here's the thing. Our parent company has put a salary freeze on the company." And he said, "I can't give you that raise." He said, "My hands are tied." Well, I was crestfallen. Went back home, talked to my wife about it. She said, "Look, just keep working hard. We're just going to trust that this is all going to work out." I said, "Okay, that sounds good."

The next day he calls me to his office and he says, "Look, here's the bottom line. I want to be a man of my word. I gave you my word that I would give you a raise if you did a great job. You've done a great job, you lived up to your part of the bargain." He said, "You can't say no to this." He said, "I'm giving you a check from my personal account for $3,000, because you've earned it."

That was the best ever lesson I've learned on personal integrity and what integrity means, which is keeping your word. So not only did he give me a chance, but he was a great example of what it means to live and to walk integrity, something I've carried with me to this day.

Clint Betts

That's incredible. Michael, thank you so much. Really appreciate you joining us, and best of luck on everything moving forward, and congratulations on everything you've built.

Michael Hyatt

Thanks, Clint. Appreciate being on.

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