EPISODE 606: Sales Success While Putting Your Loved Ones First with “Epic Life” Author Justin Breen

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Today’s show featured an interview with Justin Breen, the author of Epic Life: How to Build Collaborative Global Companies While Putting Your Loved Ones First.

Find Justin on LinkedIn.

JUSTIN’S TIP:  “Here’s my measurements in quota. One, did I have a good experience that day with my family? Two, did network grow on a global level? Those are the only quotas that matter to me. I found all this other stuff takes care of itself. And life in the space of gratitude.”


Fred Diamond: You wrote a great book, Epic Life and you talk to visionaries all day long. My audience, of course, are sales professionals. Typically, B2B, and they represent companies like Amazon, and Salesforce and Red Hat software. I want to take some of the great lessons that you’ve learned, that you put into the book, and apply them to how the sales professionals listening to the show or reading the transcript can take it to the next level.

One of the themes of your book, which was quite interesting, which we can touch on as well is, again, your book was geared toward entrepreneurs, but how they could build amazing companies while putting their loved ones first. Talk a little bit about that, and then I want to get into some details about some of the key lessons you’ve learned that the salespeople listening to the show can apply.

Justin Breen: Thank you. I’m 100% simplifier, meaning I talk to a lot of folks, and they’re like, blah, blah, blah, and they just carry on forever, and then my brain simplifies it into a pattern or an answer.

I’m either spending time with my family or talking to visionaries on a global level. That’s most of my day. I talk to one to two of those folks every single week that have let entrepreneur life destroy their family life or prevented them from anything meaningful. That’s not a good idea. The new book is how to build collaborative global companies while putting your loved ones first, which I think everyone wants. But certainly entrepreneurs, many times they have a hard time putting their loved ones first while they’re building collaborative global companies.

Fred Diamond: We talk about that with sales professionals as well. I think a lot has changed over the last couple of years. I’ve talked to so many sales leaders who do the typical thing. They’re running global teams, and they’re traveling to Europe and to Asia and they built up the points, so they’re having kind of a great life, and they didn’t see their children and they didn’t see their spouse.

When I did a lot of the interviews of the Sales Game Changers podcast, we actually started the show in 2017, and I would physically go to sales leaders’ offices with my mics and my recorder. You would hear these stories. “Tell me your greatest sales deal.” “Well, I flew to Greece, and based out of Chicago.” Then when I started doing the podcast interviews during the early stages of the pandemic, the things people would say was like, “I really am enjoying having dinner every night with my children.”

Justin Breen: Wow. Can you imagine that? It’s so interesting because one of the chapters in the book is Winning the Wrong Game. I was talking to one of my visionary friends, and you can replace sales leader with entrepreneur easily, to your point earlier. I’m talking to all these entrepreneurs and they talk about this big deal or this big exit or new car or big house and they never see their families. What is the deal? They never talk about their families, and he’s like, “Oh, they’re just winning the wrong game.”

I’m like, “Ah, that makes sense.” When I hear these big sales, and that’s fine, by the way, that’s great. But really, winning the right game is like what you said after that. That, “I liked going to dinner with my family.” Well, there’s a novel concept [laughs]. That’s why we’re here is to have families and have meaningful relationships. It took COVID for many people to discover that.

Fred Diamond: I worked for Apple Computer a long time. My first part of my career was with Apple. I was in support roles, junior marketing roles in the beginning of my career. We had a sales conference, I believe it was in San Antonio, and the sales leader who gave his speech, he was the top sales guy at Apple, the VP of Global Sales and he was Chuck Rosenberg.

I remember this very clearly. This would have been 1990, I think. He was on stage in front of 3,000 people and he said, I’ve never missed a sporting event, I’ve never missed my daughter’s recitals. He said, “I’m telling you all right now, don’t be the person who misses the sporting events.” This was 1990, Justin Breen, and now you just published the book.

Justin Breen: Same problem. This is such an interesting collaborative conversation because sales leaders and entrepreneur visionaries, their brains are similarly wired. Meaning, from the sales folks that I have talked to in the past, and sometimes currently, many of them, certainly not all, but many of them have ADHD, diagnosed or undiagnosed, so they’re all over the place and they’re idea, idea, idea, energy, energy, energy, and most visionaries are like that as well.

What I see with visionaries and certainly some sales leaders because it’s very similar, they’re the most damaged people with best coping skills. What does that mean? Most of them are like in the world’s top visionaries and again, you can flip it with sales leaders. I haven’t met one of those visionaries that hasn’t overcome at least one of the following four things. Most are two or three and then the really successful ones now, I’m talking to basically threes and all fours.

The four things, what separates entrepreneurs or sales leaders too. Four things are bankruptcy or potential bankruptcy, two, depression, three, the highest level of anxiety that you can imagine, and four, likely and or possible traumatic experiences as a child or young adult. Sales entrepreneurship is an addiction. That’s what it is.

These entrepreneurs are salespeople, they use that trauma and that damage to create all this stuff or all these big sales and then many times, not always, but many times at the expense of having a family or seeing their family or torching their family. That’s what I see over and over. One to two times a week, I talk to an entrepreneur that has torched their family or never had a family for this life.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk about trauma. One of the key themes that obviously over the course of the last couple of year, has been mental illness.

Justin Breen: You just did a show about trauma.

Fred Diamond: We did. I just did a show about trauma, was with a guy named Dan King, because here’s why I did it. I did it for two reasons. One is, I personally in my life, have experienced. I wrote a book about Lyme disease for family members with people in their life who have Lyme disease. Actually, I listened to a webinar with the top Lyme doctor on the planet. This was the summer of 2021. He talked about everything related to Lyme disease, and I knew 90%, Justin Breen, of what he was talking about. Then at the last minute, the 59th minute, he said, “And you need to take care of your childhood trauma or else you’re never going to recover.” Okay, thank you so much.

Justin Breen: He buried the lead.

Fred Diamond: He buried the lead. That’s a great way to think about it. At the 59th minute, thank you, good night. I actually have started a podcast called The Love, Hope, Lyme podcast and I interviewed this guy and I said I want to get deep into that. Let’s you and I go deep into that. You know, a lot of times I’ll interview sales leaders, I’m concerned about the mental health of my people. “We have mental health day.”

Justin Breen: Everyday should be mental health day.

Fred Diamond: You brought up trauma, so we did a special show going deep into dealing with trauma. Talk about that. Do entrepreneurs that you’re talking to have the trauma, do they just have it and keep living it?

Justin Breen: I will focus and slow down for once in my life. It’s hard for me to slow down but I will because that was important. Again, entrepreneurs most of them, not silver spoon folks, folks that have started companies from nothing. Silver spoon is a different conversation. Entrepreneurs are the most damaged with the best coping skills. The most trauma, the most anxiety, the most depression, the most potential bankruptcy. Again, the really successful ones are usually all four of those things.

In the last year, I’ve only talked to one person who’s only two of those four. When I first started the first company in 2017, I was still talking to a lot of ones and twos because it was small business owners or employees or consultants. Now it’s all visionaries, it’s all threes and fours with the exception of that one person in the last year. Then they’re like, “Oh, I don’t think I was damaged enough to be an entrepreneur.” I’m like, “Well, maybe.”

Entrepreneurs have all this trauma and damage and then they have the highest IQ, they have the highest EQ, they have the most courage, the most hustle. In terms of IQ, 140 and above is genius. That’s 1% of the population. Most of the people that I talk to and then I ask them are 140 and above, most of them. The lowest IQ of anyone I’ve talked to in the last two years that I’ve asked them was 129. That’s the lowest. That was actually yesterday, which is interesting, but almost everyone’s 140 above. Then I am 139. It’s literally a bridge between genius and human.

Then the EQ, I’m not necessarily sure how to measure that other than you can take that trauma and turn it into a massive company. I’ll explain it from a litmus test. My father, he was 61 when I was born and he was a World War II hero, shot down multiple times in combat, many times without a parachute, got back in the plane. That’s my litmus test for anyone. It’s like you either can do that or you make an excuse. A top entrepreneur at highest level and frankly, a top salesperson at highest level would never make an excuse. They would get back into a plane without a parachute after another one’s been shot down.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. I typically interview sales leaders, like I mentioned, and it’s not an easy road to become the VP of sales at Microsoft. I mean, forgetting about the Bill Gates of the world. To become a VP, you just don’t wake up one day and say, “I’m done flipping burgers, I think I’m going to be a VP of sales at Microsoft tomorrow.” It’s a 20, 30 year journey and maybe it’s not getting shot down on a plane and God bless your father for his service.

I’m actually 60 and I’m thinking, “Am I going to have the kid next year like Justin’s father did?” [Chuckles] But nonetheless, these people, they’ve had the journeys and some of them, I’m not going to say they’re as traumatic as maybe what some of the top entrepreneurs have gone through but it’s a challenge and a battle to get up there.

say that mindset is the key to everything. Talk about that. I’ll tell you why. Prior to the pandemic, we were doing the Sales Game Changers podcast, mindset and listening always came up as the two big skills, the right mindset. When the pandemic kicked in, every Thursday, we started doing a show called The Optimal Sales mindset show and all we talked about. I brought on high performers basketball, high performance coaches. I brought on a comedian who opened up for 14 years for Frank Sinatra, a guy named Tom Dreesen, one of my favorite shows.

Justin Breen: He’s from Chicago.

Fred Diamond: Oh, he is? He’s a tough guy. He wrote a great book and we had a lot of fun interviewing him. Let me share with you briefly if you don’t mind. We talked about the mindset of Frank Sinatra. He said, “This is something I’ve never been asked before.” But he said, “Sinatra was never late.” He goes, if you were a second late, if it was a 12 o’clock appointment, he was gone at 12 o’clock and one second if you weren’t there.”

The second thing he said is that he had such a skill of understanding everybody’s role and everybody had to perform at his level. Publicists, the third guy playing the tuba. He would stop rehearsals if the third French horn guy was a millisecond beyond. He would notice those things. The last thing, and I’m curious about this with you and entrepreneurs was generosity.

He said they would go to Italian restaurants in Jersey and a guy would have a picture of Sinatra, and it would say Frank Sinatra’s favorite Italian restaurant, and there were 100 guys in Jersey who had those same pictures. Dreesen said to Sinatra, he said, “Doesn’t that bother you that all these guys…?” Sinatra said, “You know, what? If it’s going to let a guy sell 100 pieces of cannoli, he can say.” Talk about that aspect, that generous mindset aspect of the entrepreneurs.

Justin Breen: One of the chapters in the first book, which came out in 2020, is entrepreneurs are the most giving people on the planet. There certainly are some very bad ones but for the most part, they’re the most giving, the kindest, the most gracious, the most generous, the most grateful, because again, they’re the most damaged with the best coping skills and I think that they appreciate the coping skills that they were given and the ability to change the world.

My brain turns everything into patterns. There’s a fundamental difference between a true visionary entrepreneur and then like a business owner or consultant or whatever. The latter category, they care about material things. Like revenue, office space, employee count, that’s fine by the way but those folks are trying to change their world there. We only partner with visionaries who are changing the world that live in abundance, and look at things as investments instead of costs.

People like that they care about purpose, spending time with loved ones, creating meaning, and they’ve already changed their world there, so they’re changing the world. It’s a fundamental difference and then part of changing the world is being incredibly generous. That’s one. Then two, I stopped questioning my brain a long time ago, but the favorite pattern that it’s created is the right mindset attracts the right network and creates the right opportunities.

In my world, right mindset is visionary, abundance investment, so there’s no, “What do you cost or charge?”, there’s no scarcity, there’s no competition, there’s only collaboration. That mindset attracts visionaries changing the world, and then very grateful that they create opportunities for me, and then I create opportunities for them. There’s been nothing outbound in years. It’s just creating value for top people on planet and then they create value for me and then everyone else wins because people like that are the ones that create the companies and technology that benefits everyone else.

Fred Diamond: As you were talking about this, let’s go back to salespeople. Some of the top salespeople I’ve met, frequently, I’ll say, why are you doing this? Why have you devoted your career to selling software to the Department of Defense or to hospitals, wherever it might be. The sales leaders who’ve reached the VP level at these types of companies, maybe they’re not changing the world like the visionaries that you’re talking about, but they are making an impact with their customer.

I want to talk about two things that you just said and I want you to go a little bit deeper into the concept of abundance, because I think that’s a term that people throw around and truly don’t understand. Then you also talked about coping. A lot of what we talk about on the Sales Game Changers podcast, is how do you deal with adversity?

Justin Breen: No. There’s no how, you either can do it or you can’t. My litmus test is you are someone who can get back into a plane without a parachute after another one has been shot down or you can’t. I have no understanding of how someone cannot deal with adversity. It makes zero sense to me. You’re either born top entrepreneur on the planet or you’re not. I’m very convinced of that.

If you are, you can work on your mindset every day. Again, that right mindset attracts right networking and creates right opportunities. I think most people would choose to make as much money as they want to, do what they like to do and what they’re good at, work with a certain type of person and create this stuff, but those four things are excuses, not motivators. The four things, the adversity, that’s the essential ingredients. It’s not how to avoid it or how to cope with it, it’s how to use it to your advantage. That’s what creates entrepreneurs, the really good ones anyway, is that adversity.

Fred Diamond: I agree with you. I’ve worked again at Apple and Compaq and I worked at Compuware with a guy named Pete Karmanos, who was worth billions at one point. I got to see them at some level, being in the tech space, if you will. I agree with you that there’s something unique about them that’s born. Why are they able to make billions?

Go a little bit deep into that as we talk about abundance. Now, here’s the thing, though, just back to what I said a second ago, the average sales professional, even the top sales professional at a great company that’s killing it, they’re going to make millions or hundreds of thousands, they’re not going to make billions. They’re still working for a company, so they’re not going to have unlimited, like the Jeff Bezos type money, if you will. They’re going to get so far, but in context with everyone else, they’re going to get pretty far. What is it about these guys or ladies that you’ve interviewed that allow them to just get so beyond which I believe is probably a key definition of abundance?

Justin Breen: That’s a tremendous contextual question. As background, I’m very low on Gallup Clifton Strength Finders, I’m very low in context but I appreciate the way that you ask that. I would say based on my experience of talking to these people, and that’s really all I talk to now is they are likely more damaged than the salesperson and they’re probably higher IQ.

Because the high IQ and high EQ allows them to game the system where they can create and make their own game. They can make their own game as opposed to playing a game but inside someone else’s system. An entrepreneur’s IQ and EQ can help them create their own system, their own game with their own rules, as opposed to having your own rules but under the protection of a company.

Fred Diamond: In the remaining time that we have here, Justin, again, the audience of the Sales Game Changers podcast are sales professionals, and they want to get better at the art and science of being a sales professional. Narrow down to three things that you talk about in the book, or that can recall with some of your great conversations that if you were talking to a sales VP right now of a guy who’s running 100-person organization, he has a quota of say, 50 million. What are three of the things that you would say you should focus on?

Justin Breen: Here’s my measurements in quota. One, did I have a good experience that day with my family? Two, did network grow on a global level? Those are the only quotas that matter to me. I found all this other stuff takes care of itself. Measurements in a quota like that, I think being a journalist, that kind of stuff always annoyed me. That’s not why you get into journalism. It’s always been a foreign concept. That’s why I’m answering that part.

One of the chapters in the new book is called Being the Buyer. One of the entrepreneur groups I’m in, Dan Sullivan is the co-founder. It’s called Strategic Coach. It’s something he routinely says. I think for a salesperson, they can certainly be the buyer. What does that mean? As a journalist, you’re the buyer, meaning like, folks are pitching you stories but really, in the end it’s your decision, what you want to write, you’re the buyer of the stories that you want to write.

For most of my career, I was the buyer. I just did the stories I wanted to and talked to the people I wanted to. Starting first company with zero business background in 2017, it was a really interesting transformation of becoming the seller. I had no idea what I was doing. Basically, anything that a traditional PR firm would have offered, I was trying to sell that and reached out to 5,000 folks to find my first five clients. One out of 1000 said yes. That’s the overcoming adversity or getting back into a plane without a parachute.

As time has gone on, maybe two and a half, three years into first company, right around start to COVID or just into it, I became the buyer again. Meaning, I had raised rates to weed out people that ask, “What do you cost or charge?” and only attracted those that said, “What does an investment with you look like?” Then those folks started introducing me to other folks that asked, “What does an investment with you look like?” So I have become the buyer again. Companies hire my firm and pay my firm, but I’m only buying the people that I want to hang out with. I think that’s a great tactic for any “salesperson” is just to become the buyer and partner with people that they actually want to hang out with and actually want to do business with.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. When people ask me, how do I become hugely successful in sales? I say, you become…

Justin Breen: Don’t sell anything, just be the buyer.

Fred Diamond: It’s similar. I say, be the Dell guy who sells to the Department of Defense. Be the guy who sells lug nuts to General Motors, and you have to be deep involved in their industry and what concerns them. Justin’s book, Epic Life, it’s the number one overall book for sales on Amazon Kindle and you also made the Wall Street Journal and the USA Today Best Seller Lists. Congratulations on that.

Before I ask you for your final action step, you’ve given so many great ideas, but something specific the salespeople listening can do. Every day you post a gratitude list. We talk about gratitude a lot. To be perfectly frank with you, we probably kind of gloss over, “Oh, you need to be grateful and do a gratitude journal.” “Okay, great, I’m going to do a gratitude journal.” Talk to me about why you do that and give me some insight into how it helps you be more productive or a better human being.

Justin Breen: Great question. I really appreciate it. Again, right mindset attracts right network and creates right opportunities. What I have found is that gratitude is a shortcut to achieving that right mindset. The first thing I do every day is a grateful journal to my wife, what I’m grateful for, for her the previous 24 hours and that just gets me in the frame of mind of being grateful for her. I’m obviously grateful for her but it really gets me in the state of mind every day for that.

Then five days a week, as you said, on LinkedIn, I do a grateful journal, basically using it as a commercial for other people. When you’re constantly grateful, it’s very hard to be ungrateful. It does happen sometimes but it’s basically training your brain as a muscle to constantly be grateful, which I am. That also attracts grateful visionaries in my case, and then it repels people who make excuses and that are not grateful. It’s like a magnet for people changing the world is that gratitude.

Fred Diamond: Do you find that the visionaries that you talk to on a daily basis live in that space as well?

Justin Breen: Hundred percent, and it’s because they have so much trauma and damage I think that they’re grateful to be in the space that they are. They’ve really had to learn it and work at it at a higher level.

Fred Diamond: Well, good for you for the book, again, Epic Life. This has been a fascinating conversation. You’re definitely one of the more different people than I typically interview on the Sales Game Changers podcast, but there’s so much that I’m personally going to take away from today’s sitting. I’ve gone through minor trauma over the last couple of years, and I’m working on the gratitude aspect.

If you’ve reached those levels, and you have that mentality, the mindset of abundance, then you have a lot to be grateful for and I liked your answer right away, the 33 visionaries you focus on in the book and those you talk to every day they get it. They understand it even with the crap that they’ve had to deal with in their life to get to where they are. Justin, give us one final action step. You’ve given us so many things to think about and I appreciate it and I appreciate you. Give me one final action step the listeners should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Justin Breen: Thank you. This was a great discussion, very collaborative. Again, my brain, it simplifies everything in a pattern. I just keep making bigger investments to be in smaller rooms but the people in those rooms are making bigger impacts. Write bigger checks to be in smaller rooms, if you want to call those networking groups or entrepreneur groups or whatever those groups you want to call. But the people in those rooms are making bigger impacts. That allows me to spend biggest investment, biggest cheque and smallest room which is my family where I can make the most impact. It’s the same formula.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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