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Are You A Go-Giver?

Are You A Go-Giver?

Are You A Go-Giver? with John David Mann

What is the best way to GET?  You start with GIVING, as John David Mann, the co-author of The Go-Giver and Karla discuss on The People Catalysts podcast.

John David Mann is an award-winning author whose books have sold more than 3 million copies in 3 dozen languages, including the bestselling classic THE GO-GIVER with Bob Burg, the New York Times bestselling memoir THE RED CIRCLE with former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, and the New York Times bestselling parable THE LATTE FACTOR with personal finance legend David Bach. As a teenager, John started his own high school and was an award-winning composer and cellist before turning to careers as an entrepreneur and author. His book TAKE THE LEAD (with former White House staffer Betsy Myers) was named by Tom Peters and the Washington Post Best Leadership Book of 2011. His first novel, STEEL FEAR, will be released in August 2021.

Website: https://johndavidmann.com/

Twitter: @JohnDavidMann

LinkedIn: John David Mann

Amazon: Author Page

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and John discuss The Power of Giving

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to The People Catalyst podcast, John David Mann.

John David Mann:  So nice to be here. Thank you, Karla.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, It’s so wonderful to finally spend some time with you. I’ve known one of your colleagues for quite some time, Mr. Bob Berg, and I know you guys wrote The Go-Giver together. I’m not sure what other projects, I’m sure there are others.

John David Mann:  A bunch of Go-Giver books, yes.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, I love that book. That’s one of my favorite favorite business books, especially because there are about six different people, when it came out, gave it to me, and so I can’t even remember, I think Bob had something posted on LinkedIn I saw, I was like, man, I’ve got to… Okay, here’s my chance to go track you down and to get a little time with you because your background is just absolutely fantastic. And both you and Bob have the relationship aspect that what the People Catalysts podcast is all about. I mean, in business and life, relationships truly are the pillar of everything else that we do, and we solve problems with people. And you have such an amazing, just eclectic background too, John, so share with us a little bit about where your entrepreneurial journey started. And you’ve done just about everything you can think of between businesses and schools and writing and all sorts of stuff.

John David Mann:  I have never gone skydiving. I have never roped to Buffalo. There are a few things I haven’t done.

Karla Nelson:  So you can just write the list of all the things you didn’t do, because-

John David Mann:  Exactly. Here you go, here you go. Anyway. So yeah, I can’t tell you exactly why things went the way they did. I like to say that Bob Burg ruined my career, and I’ll explain what I mean by that in a moment, but I guess I’ve always been curious about different things. I’ve always followed my curiosity into a new field rather than… I never said I’m going to be a writer. I never said I’m going to be an entrepreneur, I didn’t even know the word, but things just have worked out the way they’ve worked out because I’ve followed my curiosity and my interests, and because I had parents who encouraged me with everything that I did, and I’m really grateful to both of them for that. I think we all need that.

Karla Nelson:  Very important relationships, right? I mean that’s-

John David Mann:  We all need that. We don’t all have the luxury of having had that from our parents, but we can all get that from somebody around us, or from ourselves, encourage ourselves. In any case, my story. So when I was 13, I began composing music. Before my mom was a Greek drama teacher and a Greek mythology teacher, and she was going to take a bunch of school kids to Greece and perform Prometheus Bound in the theater where it was originally produced 2000, 3000 years ago. And I was one of those kids, and she wanted to take… There were eight choruses, eight core sections in the play that she wanted set to music.

And so she turned to me and said, would you do that? And I was like, “I’m 13. I don’t know how to compose music. I can’t do that.” And she said, typically, sure you can. So I did. And I went on to win a couple of prizes in music, and that began my career as a composer, which was a career that I abandoned along the way. I was a composer and I was a concert cellist. My parents were both classical musicians, but at the age of 17, I became very interested in education. Primarily I became very disinterested in my own public high school.

Karla Nelson:  I can totally understand that one.

John David Mann:  A bunch of friends and I decided we wanted to start our own school, which of course you can’t do that. And of course my mom said…

Karla Nelson:  “Yes, you can.”

John David Mann:  Yeah. So, so we did. I dropped out of school at the age of 17 and at the age of 18, attended the first graduating class of our high school, which we opened up and which ran for a good 10 years. After that year, and I graduated from that, I went back and taught there on the faculty for a couple of years before I went on to other stuff. So creating that school out of nothing, doing something that supposedly we couldn’t possibly do, was I guess my proving ground or my training ground initially in being an entrepreneur. And as I said, I didn’t know the word particularly, but that’s what we were doing.

And so I went off from there, and I’ll try to go fast forward now so we don’t take half an hour with this history. I went on to play professionally, the cello, and then I became very interested in nutrition and natural health and I got involved in that field for some years, and in that field, I always seemed to end up being the guy who was editing the articles for other people. So I started editing and editing and editing, and then I got very interested in business and entrepreneurship, and I knew the word by then, and I got very involved in network marketing in that field. And then I got involved in journalism, business journalism, writing about the things that I’d been interested in, and I became senior editor and editor and chief of a series of business journals that I either started or helped start, which was where I met Bob Burg.

By the time I met Bob, I had decided that I wanted to be a screenwriter. I was very interested in screenwriting, so that was my plan. That was my new path, and I’d gone to Hollywood and I’d taken some courses and I’d analyzed a ton of screenplays, and I was on that track to become an A-list screenwriter, that was my plan, when Bob said, “I need you to help me write this book. In fact, I need you to write this book with me because this is not a book that I can write. It’s fiction, it’s like a parable. I don’t know how to do that. So would you do that?” And I was like, “The Go-Giver?” I didn’t see it. “I don’t think that’s really going to work. I don’t think that’s something, I just don’t know.”

But you talk about relationships. So here was the thing. Actually, he asked me about joining him in this project at some point in 2004, and by Christmas time, I told my girlfriend, my fiance, now my wife, I said, “You know, I don’t see this really working exactly. I don’t get the concept, but it’s Bob, so I’ve got to look at it.”

Karla Nelson:  Relationships, right?

John David Mann:  Exactly. So over the holidays at the end of that year, we went down to Florida and we actually spent a day with Bob, talking about the idea, and I went back home and I thought about that. And Bob had drawn out eight, 10, 12,000 words of some notes, some chapter ideas, some characters. He had started a process, and I took a look at his notes and thought about it and said, “Well, let me…” I had just come off a advanced screenwriting course that had given me some dialogue skills. I thought, so let me just try my hand at this. So I wrote the chapter that is now known as the chapter with Deborah Davenport about authenticity. And I got to the end of that and thought, “This is cool. I like this.” I sent it to Bob and he’s over the moon, so we went back and forth. I would write a chapter, shoot it to him by email, he would send back his comments, which were mostly, “Awesome, wow, yes, go on further.” And then in about six weeks, we wrote the book now-

Karla Nelson:  Wow, that’s impressive. You guys were having fun if you did that in six weeks.

John David Mann:  We were having fun, totally having fun. I will add that the manuscript that we had at that point would never have seen the light of day. It went through massive rewriting at the hands of our agent, which we were fortunate to find a literary agent who would work with us. And we spent over a year rewriting it, and eventually it got published, and that was the end of my screen writing career. I discovered that I was writing books and I’m still writing, this is 30 books later, I’m writing books for a living. It’s what I do. About 30 roughly.

Karla Nelson:  Wow. That’s impressive. And you have such a different array of books that it… I love that you said earlier, you follow your curiosity. I think that’s really critical because curiosity, not everybody knows what their quote unquote passion is.

John David Mann:  Yes.

Karla Nelson:  And that’s the word that’s typically used, but your curiosity feeds you, just, it’s very similar. I think that’s… It’s a very thin coin because it’s a word that you can use I think that’s not so hard as passion. It’s like, “What are you passionate about?” And you’re just like, “Well…” And typically people, I think, feel like they have to say a non-profit or I want to help people and it’s really hard, but I love that word, curiosity, that you can use. And so how did you meet Bob by the way? Because that’s always the tip. I met Bob through you. Relationships are this wave of individuals that you meet. How did you run into him and how did you guys connect?

John David Mann:  You know, people often ask me, “What advice do you have if I want to become a writer or I want to improve my writing skills, or I want to go into…” And one answer, I have a couple of answers, but one of them is at least from my case, I spent a lot of years, probably 20 years, editing other people’s stuff. And there’s nothing like taking other people’s stuff, particularly people who are not professional writers but who have an interest or an expertise or an experience that is really valuable and they put it in words, taking other people’s stuff and making it ready, making it better, improving it. It’s fantastic training ground.

And as I said, I never planned to be a writer. I never set out to do that, but I got the training by editing other people’s stuff. Bob was one of those other people. I probably edited, I don’t know, 100 different, 200 different writers in the course of all these business journal articles. Most of them probably never even noticed what the editing was. Every now and then, somebody would… We had one guy who said, “I don’t like the editing, put it back the way it was.” The way it was was terrible, so we didn’t.

Karla Nelson:  You told him his baby was ugly. He didn’t like that.

John David Mann:  I said, “I’m sorry, dude. If you want us to publish it, it’s being edited?” But I had two contributors that entire time that wrote into the magazine and said, “What have you done? My stuff is so much better than it was.” And one of them was Bob.

Karla Nelson:  That’s Bob for you, shedding a light on somebody’s brilliance, which is huge about building relations.

John David Mann:  And he hired me to edit a couple of things he did, edit Endless Referrals, a new edition of that book, and a few other little projects that he’d done. And then the Go-Giver came along and he said, “I don’t want to hire you to edit. I want to partner with you in writing this. I need you to do the writing because I know kind of what I want to say, at least the initial idea.” When we set out to write that book, we didn’t have five principles by the way of stratospheric success, we didn’t have five anything. The storyline, the five principles of the book, the ending, the whole essence of the book grew out of the process of writing it, and drew on Bob’s experience and my experience. And we’d both been in sales, we’d both been in business, we’d both been entrepreneurs.

It really is kind of like a 50/50 mix of our DNA, so it was a fantastic experience. And I mentioned 30 books, right?

Karla Nelson:  Yeah.

John David Mann:  Almost all of them have been writing partnerships like the Go-Giver. Bob has been one of my major writing partners, Brandon Webb, the Navy Seal I mentioned, he’s been another one, and there’ve been many others. But all my books have been partnerships. They’ve all been entrepreneurial projects, and they’ve all been partnerships.

Karla Nelson:  That’s why you have so many best sellers, because that’s what relationships do. And you’re always going to be better working as a team. That’s just a fact, because we can’t see own stuff. If you can build that relationship, and it’s interesting when you work with entrepreneurs, one of the things they always say, don’t hire anybody that’s really exactly like you. You need to have a balanced team, and they need to respect their magnificence, right?

John David Mann:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  And that makes the team absolutely stronger. So tell me, what’s one of your, or the favorite principle in the Go-Giver book? That’s a hard one to pick, huh?

John David Mann:  I can tell you this, so two answers. The first answer is I can tell you what people tell us, and people said… There’s five. For those of you, anybody listening, who doesn’t know the book, there are five principles-

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, go through the five maybe, so they can hear them.

John David Mann:  The five laws of stratospheric success, and basically they’re all elaborations or facets of the core idea, which is that if you shift your focus in business and in life in general as well, if you shift your focus from getting, what benefits me, to giving, how can I add value to other people’s lives? Then that’s not only a more noble path you could say, nice, good, all those lovely, mild, milk toast, adjectives, it’s also profitable. It’s pragmatic, it’s practical. If you focus your life on adding value to other people, it builds your reputation, it builds your value, it makes you a valuable person that other people want to know, want to help, want to assist. And ultimately, it’s kind of like Zig Ziglar said ages ago, you can get anything you want in life if you help other people get what they want. And so-

Karla Nelson:  You just gave me some goosey bumps. That was one of my favorite quotes.

John David Mann:  It was, he was great, huh? Zig was the recipient of our first annual Go-Giver award back when we were doing those awards, and John Maxwell was year number two. So the idea behind the Go-Giver is not, “You should be a good person,” or “How to be a Saint,” or “How to be selfless,” or “How to be a martyr.” It’s none of that. It’s how to put your focus, not on yourself, which is ultimately self-defeating, it’s a paradox, put your focus out because that’s the way you’re actually going to live the richest life. It’s going to benefit you. So there are five principles in the book that elaborate on that.

The first is the law of value, which is, your value, your personal worth, your value is based on how much more you give than you take in payment. And that doesn’t mean you should give all your stuff away for free. It means you should do what great businesses do. Charge a decent price, even a high price, whatever the fair price is, and give away the store. Give the most extraordinary customer service, create the most memorable experience, do the most remarkable job. Be the kind of business that people will all talk about because they can’t believe what you did for them. The second principle is about income, and it says, your income is determined by how many lives you touch. It’s a matter of reach really, how big you grow your sphere of influence. The third principle is about influence, and it says, your influence in the world is determined by how much you put your focus on other people’s interests, putting other people’s interests first. In the book, it says, how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.

The fourth principle is authenticity, and it simply says, the most important gift, the most valuable gift you have to give is yourself. Whatever you’re selling, whatever service you’re offering, whatever it is you’re doing for the world, it’s ultimately about you. You’re giving yourself to the world. This is true whether you’re a sales person or you’re somebody who answers the phone, or you’re somebody who builds things. It’s even true if you’re a writer, because ultimately, no matter what you write about, you’re really, you’re writing yourself. You’re putting yourself on the page.

These are all four lovely. These are all four just charming and lovely and delightful and practical and pragmatic, but the fifth principle, this is the one that people say, “Oh God, the fifth principle gave me a hard time.” And Bob and I have been hearing it for a decade. The first four principles, they really clicked. I feel like I’m already that way. I kind of got that. You told me that six different people-

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, it’s real easy to see if you go, “Oh, I got to be better in that meeting.” Even if there’s an aha, it’s a natural, easy ah-ha to go-

John David Mann:  I get it, I see that.

Karla Nelson:  I see it, yeah.

John David Mann:  Yeah, I see how I want to do that, right. And you told me that six people told you about the book because they thought of you. Well, they probably thought of those first four principles or one of those first four principles. People tell us that the first four are easy, but the fifth is like, “It would give me splinters.” And we think of them as like four fingers and a thumb. It appears to be opposing the opposable thumb, but without it, the four fingers really don’t work.

So the fifth principle is the law of receptivity, and it says the only way, or the way to be open to continuous giving is to stay… The only way to keep giving is to stay open to receiving. If you’re not open to receiving, you shut off the flow, you don’t get to give. It means being like a martyr, being a doormat, being a, “You go ahead and enjoy the movie without me. I’ll stay home and suffer.” It’s not a practical way to live. When someone wants to give you something, their time, their attention, their care, a gift-

Karla Nelson:  Or wants to buy you a coffee, that was the one that I got. Every time I went, I always had to be the person that bought the lunch or bought the dinner and bought the coffee. That’s what I got-

John David Mann:  I’ll pick it up. I’ll get it. I’ll get the check.

Karla Nelson:  When I read it, because it makes me feel good, but at the same time, it’s like, you have to… That was the one that, it knocked me on the floor too when I read it. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to be a better receiver.” Not so much joyful, just being open to it, to say, “Wait a second. I’ve given,” so you have the ability to then open your arms back and say, “Well, now I need to be able to be receptive and open to it,” instead of being like you always have to be the giver.

John David Mann:  One of my coauthors is a guy named David Krueger, who is an MD. He’s a psychiatrist. He says he is a recovering psychiatrist because he no longer practices psychiatry. He is an executive coach, and he’s just a wonderful, wonderful man. And like Bob Burg, David was at my wedding. He’s a great guy, and David and I wrote a book called The Secret Language of Money, and one of the things he describes is how he’s given this test over the years to people. He says, “Tell me your annual income right now. Then tell me the annual income that you’d like to shoot for, that if you had, your life would be handled. That if you had, you’d be satisfied, life would be good.” Not buy your own island, but it would be cool. And he said the desired amount is nearly always twice the current amount. He said, “But here’s where it gets interesting. A few years later, I’ll go back and test the same person and they may have risen their income to that higher level, and now I’ll ask them, what’s your current income? It’s here. What’s your desired amount?”

Karla Nelson:  Twice as much.

John David Mann:  Yeah, it’s really funny. People have limitations about how much they can earn. There’ve been a ton of studies that show that people hit a certain income level and just can’t get above that ceiling, whether it’s $5,000 a month, $10,000 a month, $3,000 a month, $50,000 a month, the scale doesn’t matter. It’s the energy. People have a certain ceiling that they can’t seem to get past. Or people who can’t seem to get into a relationship that really nurtures them, that really works for them. Or people can’t… What happens is true, is the money, relationship, activity, career, people have these ceilings that they bump into that may even appear externally imposed by society or by their circumstance, but in many cases, it’s an internally generated ceiling or wall.

And what that wall is, is “This is the most I deserve. I don’t deserve more than this.” Because the law of receptivity isn’t functioning fully. It’s like you have to keep the channel of receiving wide open, the way that you… It sounds kind of woo-woo, but the way that you grow your income is, first, you believe that you deserve it.

Karla Nelson:  Well, there’s a lot going on upstairs a lot of the time. That’s why it’s so important to read and to nurture your brain because that determines your activity, and sometimes, your subconscious mind is so strong that if you’re not consistently aware of your actions, it reinforces your subconscious.

John David Mann:  Let me give you an example of this, a personal example. Years ago when I started writing books, I was writing books about business, and they were all non-fiction books, like seven principles of that and 10 laws of this, and some people’s memoirs, their life story and so forth. And then The Go-Giver and parables like that, and my wife said, “You’re destined to be a novelist. You are going to write amazing novels.” And I got to tell you, Karla, honestly, although by this time I already had pretty good evidence that I could write books, I would always think, “God, a novel. I could never do that. I can’t see myself doing that.” It just seemed so daunting.

Karla Nelson:  And then your wife said, “Yes, you can.”

John David Mann:  Yeah, you know, my mom in the back of my head, yeah. So she’s like, “Yeah, not only can you do that, that’s going to be your career. That’s where you’re going to ultimately be.” I could never see it, but eventually, I got through that wall and my first novel’s being published this July, and it’s already gotten accolades. But you know what? I just, I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see it.

Karla Nelson:  That’s another thing with relationships, like you said, your mom and your wife, and I’m sure they’re.. and Bob, and all these other influential relationships. Sometimes I think what happens is the thing that comes easy to somebody, they don’t value it in themselves or they just can’t see… Others can see the brilliance and magnificence in them, and a lot of times, it’s really hard because this thing in between our two ears gets in the middle of it. And so that’s another reason, not only just having a nurturing and having a great sphere of influence, but this way of somebody looking at you and saying, “God, you’re brilliant at that. Yeah. This is what I see for you.” Because sometimes, people can see so much for us that we can’t see for ourselves.

John David Mann:  You know, if I had a four word slogan for everything you just said, the slogan is, your dog is right. You know, the bumper sticker? I strive to be the person my dog thinks I am.

Karla Nelson:  That is a great quote. I love-

John David Mann:  Well, your dog is right.

Karla Nelson:  That’s great. Oh my gosh, I love it. Okay. So you shared the five principles, and so let’s go ahead and wrap this up about your favorite principles out of the five. Because I know you said the one that everyone says, so I’m going to guess yours might be a little bit different, and then we’ll let our listeners know how they can get a hold of you.

John David Mann:  Yeah. I think my favorite principle, if I had to… The five all are like facets of the same jewel inside, if you want to use that image, but for me, I’m intrigued with that third law, the law of influence. The fourth law, the law of authenticity came from my wife. It’s like she embodies that. That’s where I got that, I modeled it on her. But the third law says, your influence in the world is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first, and I wrote those words but it still puzzles me, because the universe is a puzzling place. It’s something I learned as a teenager, the world is built on paradox and you can’t understand how the world really works unless you embrace the idea of paradox, which is what the Go-Giver is all about.

You can’t give unless you receive, and so your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first. And you know, it’s not always easy, or at least it’s not always obvious to me how to do that. So that to me is… And I guess that interests me because I have the desire, I’ve always had the aspiration to have an influence in the world. I want to have an impact. If I had to design my gravestone, maybe it would say, “He had an impact.” I want the world to be a different place and a better place because I was here. I think we all want that.

Karla Nelson:  I think we do. I think it’s such a powerful law, number one, because of what you stated, but then the how is so mysterious. Then you have to lean into, “Okay, so it’s listening to their wants and needs, right? What are all the things that I can do to create influence with someone else? And it’s probably not the same for everybody, speaking truth into them or identifying what they’re magnificent at, or just honestly, I swear, just making sure every day, whoever you talk to, have a smile on your face and make it a fun conversation. I kept on thinking, one of my mentors, Brian Buffini, every great marketing strategy had three different pieces, give, ask, and receive. But if you haven’t given first, you don’t have the ability to ask.

And I kept on thinking, well, what are the things that you can give? And I’m like, you can even give a darn smile and that’s still creates influence. So one day, I wrote all the different things, and my TEDx talk is actually, lead with a give. And so that’s been one of those things I’ve always talked about because giving actually creates the influence, but I think sometimes we have to give these big things. You can give of your time, you can give of your connections, you can give, and it gets down literally just to your smile. How many times do you walk down the street and everybody’s just…

John David Mann:  Yeah, in their own world.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, and somehow, giving that, it gives something back to you. It’s something as little as that.

John David Mann:  Just listening, I mean, actually listening to what the person is saying, what the person’s feeling, listening between the words for 15 seconds, for one minute, for five minutes, for whatever amount of time is that little byte of time, genuinely listening is one of the most enormous gifts that you could give because people so rarely get it in this world, in this talkative word.

Karla Nelson:  That’s so true, and one of the things, John, I’ll never forget, I’ve met with a colleague, and this has served me so well, about creating influence and listening, how important it is. I, and I can’t remember, this is quite a while ago that I was reading several books on… It might have been the Go-Giver now that I think about it, and I made it a tasked that every time I met with somebody, for the first 15 minutes, it was all focused on them. And I could tell when people were givers because it would make them uncomfortable, because I would just focus on them and asking them questions, like, “No, no, no. I want to ask you questions.” I wouldn’t let them. And to this day, when you have a lunch with somebody like that, you might not have something today, but you can call them five years later and say, “Hey, I thought about this and I thought about you.” They remember who you are, they take your phone call, they take your texts. Just because of that little bit of time that you-

John David Mann:  That’s brilliant.

Karla Nelson:  … put forward into those connections.

John David Mann:  I love it.

Karla Nelson:  And so it’s definitely absolutely worthwhile, but it’s also fun. That’s the great part. It’s nice being the person that everybody wants to be around and everybody wants to call to partner with, so I love that. That’s great, wonderful. Man, we could do this forever, john. This is one of my favorite subjects. You know, we might have to call up Bob and have some type of a podcast with all of us sometime, because…

John David Mann:  Yeah, round table.

Karla Nelson:  That would be a ball. So, well, I can’t wait for your next book to come out. And how can the readers get ahold of you?

John David Mann:  My website, which I’m just in the middle of redoing, but it’s there. And my website is simply my name, John David Mann, two N’s, JohnDavidMann.com. All my books are there, I have a blog there, I’m going to be putting up a book I’m working on, I’ll be offering as a free ebook, but it’s not ready yet so that’s a few months away, but everything I do, it’s there on my website, JohnDavidMann.com.

Karla Nelson:  Fantastic. John, thank you so much for being on the show today. It was fantastic.

John David Mann:  Absolutely my pleasure. Thank you.


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