8 lessons I learned from the pros about building an audience (I’m using one right now)

Updated to Business on December 19, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

I am a student of success. I learned a long time ago it’s faster to learn from someone more successful than me, rather than bumbling along trying to figure it all out myself.

Recently, I was at Mike Stelzner’s amazing Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego learning from the pros. This was a collection of over 80 top presenters who have mastered blogging, podcasts, publishing, and building huge followings. It was a real treat to be able to easily meet so many of the people that I have been learning from. I got to meet a lot of the presenters (some are listed in this blog) and even interview some of them for upcoming episodes of the Expert’s Enterprise podcast. I was exhausted, but pretty happy by the end of the two days.

Here are some lessons that I have pulled from the pros about building an audience (and I’m using one of them right now).

Michael Hyatt headshotMICHAEL HYATT (

Every year Michael Hyatt surveys his followers. This is one of those slap-on-the-side-of-the-head ideas that we all should be using. Michael uses the information from his annual survey to redirect the content of his blog and podcast. Given the volume of original content (blogs, videos, courses, speeches) he creates in a year, this is an incredibly powerful strategy. He learns what people want and they are reminded he cares. It’s a win/win.

LESSON LEARNED: Ask your people what they want, don’t assume. A simple survey, meet-up group, or phone survey can tell you loads about what your followers want. We use Survey Monkey, it’s free for under 100 responses and easy to use. 

NOW DO THIS: Today, ask one person you are working with for feedback. No biggie – just ask (and then be quiet) a question like: “I’m curious, if there was one thing I could do differently that would help you even more, what would that be?”

Pay Flynn headshotPAT FLYNN Smart Passive Income podcast (

The enviable success of the Smart Passive Income podcast, blog, and business is no fluke. Host Pat Flynn (who is also a nice guy) is very deliberate about continually delivering great content. And he also does something a bit unusual – he lets us in. Since the launch of “SPI” (one of the top five podcasts on iTunes with eight million downloads), Pat has been giving us glimpses of the man behind the microphone. We have learnt about losing his job, having children, getting overwhelmed with work, creating solutions, learning how to become a keynote speaker, and more. Listeners can’t help but become loyal fans as they follow the triumphs and struggles of the self-confessed “crash-test dummy of entrepreneurs.”

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t hide behind your company – let people get to know you.

NOW DO THIS: Include something about a favourite hobby in your bio, mention your family in your blogs or newsletters, or share some personal news in your social media updates. You can even upgrade your promotional photograph to show yourself enjoying a hobby (a realtor friend uses a picture of him waterskiing in a business suit on all his ads). Show yourself and customers will show up more often at your door.

Michael Port headshotMICHAEL PORT (

It’s easy to think that successful on-line empires are run by wide-eyed, adrenalin-pumping entrepreneurs who sleep three hours a night and relentlessly pound out fresh content 24/7 to salivating fans. Not so with Michael Port. My last interview with Michael found him fresh off two months on his sailboat (with limited internet connection, which he likes.) He is also a smart marketer that readily “repurposes” content when necessary. “Why would I start from scratch to create something I’ve already slaved over months before?” He asked me in an interview. “I’ve already done the work,” he added “now it’s time to repeat the rewards.”

LESSON LEARNED: Be smart about what’s important. We can either think we are indispensable and do everything ourself or we can get our priorities right and spend as much time as possible on what counts. 

NOW DO THIS: Here’s a simple test. Cut back your work hours by 30 minutes every day for one week. And notice the difference. Maybe you get home (or close the door to your home office) more relaxed. Maybe you make dinner for your family more often. Maybe you just catch up on some reading. The point is to challenge your assumptions about your time commitment and then decide what really is important.

Leslie Samuel headshotLESLIE SAMUEL (Become a Blogger)

It’s hard not to smile when you are with Leslie Samuel. The native of St. Maarten, who now lives in Michigan is simply excited about his work – and it shows. He first venture into the internet space was teaching biology on his very popular show. Yes, he can make even biology exciting. Now, he is even better known as the host of Become a Blogger, where he teaches and inspires thousands of entrepreneurs to share their message and create a successful on line business. “You have a gift, a talent, a lesson” he told me in an interview “that you can share with the world. Why not make it interesting?”

LESSON LEARNED: If you love it, let it show. I’m not going to enjoy a meal in a restaurant if the waiter is bored and just going through the motions. I want some enthusiasm. Go to any Disney park and watch how employees can still be enthusiastic, even after answering the same question 10,000 times. 

NOW DO THIS: Today I want you to practice being enthusiastic as a consumer. REALLY thank people. Take any opportunity you can and let people know you appreciate them. You can practice when you are buying groceries, getting a coffee, or gassing up your car. Now notice how they respond. They love it, don’t they? Plus it feels good. Enthusiasm is infectious – spread it around.

Erik FisherERIK J FISHER (Beyond the To Do list Podcast)

One of the best podcast hosts I follow is Erik J. Fisher of the Beyond the To Do list podcast. Not only does he attract remarkable authors, bloggers, and entrepreneurs (I’ll be on it soon!), but he lets them talk. The purpose of a podcast is to share information and Erik lets his guests do that. Instead of interrupting with his own story, he asks the kind of questions that take the conversation to a whole new level of insight (it keeps me glued to the end of every episode).

LESSON LEARNED: Let people talk. A good question always trumps more talking.

NOW DO THIS: If you want to know what your customer wants, ask and then be quiet. If you want to know why your employee didn’t call the client back, ask without judgement. And if you want to know why your boss moved the deadline up, ask without being defensive. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Amy_PorterfieldAMY PORTERFIELD (Marketing Made Easy podcast)

One of the smartest and classiest ladies I know is the founder of the Marketing Made Easy podcast, Amy Porterfield. Not unlike most “over night successes” in the music industry, Amy spent many years working for Tony Robbins, Harley Davidson, and Social Media Examiner before claiming her spot as a top blogger and podcaster for entrepreneurs. And years before most of us might reach out for help, she built a team to support her rise to the top of celebrity podcasters.

LESSON LEARNED: Create people systems. You will get more leverage of your time and time freedom if you start delegating and outsourcing before you really need it. All too often, entrepreneurs allow a need for control and perfection to get in the way of sharing responsibility. But, in fact, that is the only way to grow your enterprise – you have to create people systems.

NOW DO THIS: Look for one repetitive, boring, must-do, type task and either delegate it or outsource it. It may feel a bit scary, at first, but it will be worth it. I have one person I delegate to and two I outsource to – I would never go back.

jaime-tardyJAIME TARDY Eventual Millionaire podcast

When you are running a small business it’s easy to focus on what you, but it’s smart to focus on what other people need. Jaime Tardy built her success by sharing the insights and strategies of other people. She built her reputation by connecting people. I first noticed her knack for connecting after she interviewed me for her popular Eventual Millionaire podcast. Jaime was generously referring to me in guest blogs and interviews. My name was being included in her conversations and be promoted to hosts of other top podcast shows.

It goes back to the old parable “Seek first to give and then to receive.”- the more we give, without expecting anything in return, the more we receive. Whether you are responding to an email request, leaving a feedback on a blog, or passing on a referral, it will all come back to you in spades. The trick, I have found, is to do it because you want to, not because it is “strategic.”

LESSON LEARNED: Help others first.

NOW DO THIS: Think about someone you can help today. It could be with advice, reaching out to help, or just sending them a card to say you are thinking of them. A few minutes on your part could mean the world to someone else. 

jeff-goinsJEFF GOINS (Goins Writer)

In one year, Jeff Goins built his list of followers to 100,000 and it all happened because he declared he was a writer. He could have said he was also a social media expert, copywriting expert, or book publishing expert. He said he was a writer. “I wanted to take my voice”, he told me in an interview “and share it with the world.” This is what Goethe meant by “…boldness has a genius power and magic in it…”. In our twitter-mind world of 140 characters, and thumbing reply emails in cafe line-ups, taking a stand and being bold is remarkable.

LESSON LEARNED: The world can’t guess – you need to declare your expertise and then let people decide.

NOW DO THIS: Here’s a quick test. Can you explain in one sentence what you do? Maybe you’ve had this happen at parties, or when you go to pick your kids up at school. Someone asks what you do, and three minutes later you are still trying to explain it (and they look even more confused.) Sound familiar? Write in one sentence the one thing you want people to most know about how you serve people. Now read it to ten people and notice their reaction. Here’s mine: “I help speakers, consultants, coaches, and on-line marketers who want to grow their influence and income.”

Did you guess right? Yup, the one tip from a pro was from Jaime Tardy: Help others first. That’s what this blog is all about. I want to help you to be successful. Whether you are an entrepreneur building your audience, or you have a job but you want more, I want to help.

My raison d’être is to help people get real results and create a rich life. Stick around, there is more good stuff coming your way to help make that happen for you.

Someone once said “Success leaves clues.” (Tweet this out) and I think if you look hard enough every successful person can teach you something. The eight lessons in this post have been huge pivot points for me as I grow my business and my influence. I hope they have the same impact on you.