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Experts Unleashed

EP77: Focus On The Moment, Not The Mountain – Alden Mills

Tags: vlogs, Books, Leadership Education, Leadership, podcasts

I’ve been binging on leadership education recently. Books, podcasts, vlogs, anything I can get my hands on.

One thing I’ve been wondering is why there are so many former Navy SEALS who go into entrepreneurship? Mark Divine, Jocko Willink, David Goggins, and more. Well, in this episode of Experts Unleashed, I got to ask another former Navy SEAL this very question.

Alden Mills was a three-time platoon commander in the Navy SEALS. After his time in “the Teams,” Alden became an entrepreneur. He led his first company to $90 million in sales in just three years, becoming an Inc. 500 CEO.

He’s the creator of the Perfect Pushup System and its spinoff products. He’s been in the pet nutrition business. He’s authored 2 books. Be Unstoppable: The 8 Essential Actions to Succeed at Anything, and Unstoppable Teams: The Four Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership. Today, Alden is a world-renowned speaker, educator, and executive coach.

Alden and I got together recently to talk about his approach to business, leadership, and life in general.

You’ll Discover

  • Alden’s first business failure… and the thought process that led him to create the Perfect Pushup System [07:40]

  • Why are there so many entrepreneurs who were former Navy SEALS?… And why Alden prefers not to make his Special Forces background the focus of his business [21:30]

  • The 2 most important business lessons Alden learned (that weren’t from the SEAL teams or any of his businesses) [27:40]

  • The “Mirror Effect” – the most important leadership quality everyone should have [45:22]

  • Why people follow leaders… and how to get them to follow YOU [52:25]

…And much more.

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Episode Transcript

Alden Mills: [00:00:00]

You all have these diverse experiences which are going to bring different perspectives, and when all of that’s put on the table, then we can make something magical happen.

Joel Erway: [00:00:17]

Hey, welcome back. Thank you for tuning in for another episode of experts unleashed. Joel Erway here I am super excited with today’s episode. I have a very special guest who is very well accomplished, has written a couple of bestselling books. Our guest today is Alden Mills. Now, Alden is a three-time Navy seal platoon commander and was the CEO of perfect fitness.

One of the fastest-growing companies in America. He’s the author of Unstoppable Teams: The Four Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership. And Be Unstoppable: The Eight Essential Actions To Succeed at Anything. A long time entrepreneur with more than 40 patents and more than 25 years of experience working with high performing teams. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Alden, welcome to the show, my man.

Alden Mills: [00:01:06]

Hey, it’s an honor to be here. I love what you’re doing here. So really, it’s a treat to be on the show with you, Joel. Thanks for having me.

Joel Erway: [00:01:13]

Of course, man. Of course. Now, we chatted briefly before we hopped on the call, a little bit about kind of a background of what you’ve got going on now, but I want to dive into this interview because you’re very, very successful, very well accomplished.

The whole goal of experts unleashed is to share with our audience the journey of how you became a successful entrepreneur, how you became who you are today. Can you give us a little bit more background of where you came from and let’s start there.

Alden Mills: [00:01:51]

Absolutely. So, the first piece of this puzzle is I grew up in a small manufacturing family in central Massachusetts. I had watched my great grandfather. I mean, I didn’t see him started, but I watched him at the end of his life running this business that he started out of his garage in 1926.

It wasn’t a fancy business. It was polishing pads and things, and so I was always interested in widget development. Fast forward, one of my first platoons, I am sent to be on a submarine for what turned out to be 50 days and I’m trying to think of ways to keep my mind active while I’m on the submarine cause we weren’t doing lots of missions.

You have a lot of downtime. And I challenged myself and I, you know what? I actually have this here. I was not prepared to have this, but I challenged myself with a sketchbook. And I literally were like, okay, I am going to invent a new idea every single day while I’m on the sub. It was just something to challenge myself with, right?

And let me show you an idea. So I had all kinds of wacky ideas. Here’s one. This was the buoy mate, right? It was a way to just deal with a dive buoy that we’d have to do during training mission. I came up with a baby stroller thing, but the point was, I was just doodling things but to keep my mind active and kind of get myself in the philosophy of creating new stuff. It didn’t matter what it was.

Fast forward seven more years, I’d gone to business school. And I came out of business school and I thought, okay, I’m going to go strike it rich in technology and moved to San Francisco. And I learned really quickly that I just wasn’t in the software and I really was having a hard time and I was about to leave because I had gone for the wrong thing.

I had thought about going after the money instead of what I was really passionate about and right as I’m about to go back into the military, my wife’s like, you know, you’d always talked about starting this business. Why don’t you take a little more time and think about it? So what I ended up deciding on was I’m going to go into a business that’s going to be a part of my life regardless if I worked in it or not.

Now, the little bit of the backstory there was, I was an asthmatic kid, and fitness had been a really important part of my life to help me get asthma under control. And I was like, you know, I bet there are other people out there that have this same philosophy. If you take control of your body, you can take control of your life.

And that became the mantra of the business that everyone knows as perfect pushup and perfect pull up and perfect dab carver, but three things occurred there, right? I had seen somebody in the family being able to chart their own destiny. Two, I was interested in widgets and I had developed a little bit of muscle memory for creating new things. And three, I was really passionate about the industry of fitness.

And when those three finally collided, and I find, you know, my swim buddy, my wife was supportive enough, I went for it. And by the way, everyone hears about the success of perfect fitness, but it was the overnight success that took 10 years. Right?

It wasn’t like, oh, he’s just smarter than everybody else. We had good timing and that’s always a piece of it as well. So that’s the journey in a nutshell.

Joel Erway: [00:05:35]

Let me ask you a question. We haven’t had anybody on the show that has been in the widget space. Right. And you said earlier that you loved, you were attracted to widgets.

Alden Mills: [00:05:45]


Joel Erway: [00:05:45]

Why? Like is there something like, why widgets? Like what drew you to widgets?

Alden Mills: [00:05:51]

Me, it was a tangible thing, right? Here’s one of my favorites, this is the perfect pushup mobile, which has since been discontinued, but the handles come apart, right? And they click in on the side and it’s this cool little, it was like almost like a steampunk kind of design.

Right? And I love the idea of actually seeing something go from back of the napkin to a tangible thing I’m holding in my hand. So that was then. Right? And from there I was like, okay, I’ve done lots of different widgets. I mean, we’ve sold over 10 million units of these different ideas. And then I moved into the pet food space, which is a place that we’re in today and I went in there because one of my joys are my Labradors.

One of them came down with hip dysplasia and I was sick and tired of sticking a pill down her throat and one of my key swim buddies out of perfect fitness, and I started this company called Presidio pet. And that was a consumable product, right?

So then I kind of shifted from a widget to a consumable, and now I’m really in the content space. And the reason I’m in that space is I got sick and tired of realizing that I could make all these different kinds of widgets, but people weren’t taking the next step to actually work on their bodies. What I really needed was to create a widget that worked inside here, like that’s the most important widget, and that widget is content.

And it’s not just content, but it’s an actionable series of steps that people can take to get over their own self-imposed limitations and go start living the life that they really imagined.

Joel Erway: [00:07:48]

Yep. So now you’re working on mental widgets and helping people build their own widgets, right?

Alden Mills: [00:07:53]

Which is one of the things I love what you’re doing here, right? I mean, I would argue that that’s a lot about what you’re doing.

Is helping people get out of their own way and go start to unleash their own expert insight and help others do it.

Joel Erway: [00:08:12]

What have you found to be difficult or challenging as you’ve gone through the three phases? Right? And there’s more phases, but I’ve outlined them as the perfect pushup with all those products then going into the pet food space, and now you’re in the education, the content, the information space, right?

What have you seen to be some similarities and also some differences and challenging things between those three markets?

Alden Mills: [00:08:47]

Okay, so. I’ll start with the similarity most importantly. The similarity is as passionate about every single one of those. I didn’t pay off the pet story of space, but we ended up creating this Glucosamine gravy called fetch fuel that you would squirt on things.

So I wouldn’t have to stick a pill down our throat and you know, I was passionate with my dog, I wanted something that was a better way to do what was already out there. And if you ask yourself that question, how can I make something better? There’s always ways to make something better, right? But at the end of the day, I went into each of these spaces, not with, oh I bet I could make X. It was, I bet I could help people with Y.

And when you go in with a process of how can I better serve, how can I better help? What thing that could I do that could give back and make a more of a positive impact? That is the clear delineation across all three of them. Another clear delineation, and I’m going to dovetail off this slightly, but the other one is I wanted direct contact with the consumer. Right?

People will call that the B to C space. We called it direct consumer, infomercials and everything along those lines. But there were times where we veered from that. We ended up going into retail. We had 33,000 retail doors just in the United States, and we started selling across the world and other retailers.

That is a totally different animal than B to C, and I found myself struggling at times because I was too disconnected with the customer and my customer became from the Tesco’s to the cared for us, to the Walmart’s to the Dick’s of the world where I really wanted to get back to the Johnny’s and the aunties of the world of hearing how our product helped them achieve a dream.

Right? And the way, we did the same thing in pet food. We did another change. And we’re like, okay, let’s try and go to the independent retailer. And that’s an independent retailer. You’re a little closer, but you still have that middleman. In the cases where it’s been most rewarding is when we’re B to C and we have direct customer involvement.

So we get to understand where we’re being helpful and where we need to improve.

Joel Erway: [00:11:20]

Well, I would only imagine that when you change who your ultimate customer is, whether it’s direct to consumer or to the middleman, like they’ve all got different motivations, right?

Alden Mills: [00:11:31]

Much more different motivations and by the way, the profitability is much different, right?

And the systems that you need to deal with a Walmart are a lot different than dealing with Wally, you know, a single homeowner who’s like, Hey, I’d like to learn about your unstoppable course. That’s a different sale process and a different set of systems you need.

Joel Erway: [00:11:55]

100 percent. Which of the three did you enjoy most?

Now I don’t want this to be like a loaded question, but in terms of impact to your end user and a feedback to yourself, like what have you felt has been kind of most rewarding of the three major markets that you’ve entered?

Alden Mills: [00:12:20]

All of them have the same rewarding elements. One for me is the creation.

Joel Erway: [00:12:25]


Alden Mills: [00:12:26]

Pulling something from nothing, right. Dealing with a blank piece of paper and then saying, Hey, what if, what if we can do this? And how would that work? And then you get this thing, this product, this product that can provide value to somebody else. That’s part one.

Part two, which is the only thing that outweighs the creation is when somebody comes to you and says, this really helped me. Thank you. Right? That’s what continually stokes my fire to be like, okay, I’m on the right path. We’ve got to keep doing this. Let’s replicate that again. You know, I really think from, this may sound a little too spiritual for folks, but at the end of the day, you know, we got this one life, right?

And at the end of it, we’re going to be sitting there going, all right, well, what did we do with it? Right? Did we just take? Was it just all these things I wanted? Right? I got the car, or I got the zip code, or I got the bank account. Those are all, you know, things that you maybe think you earned them, but you’re taking them, right?

But what are the things that people are like, you know what? That person made a difference in my life. I’m going to go to that person’s funeral because I’m paying my thanks because they helped make a positive impact in my life. To me, you want to play for that one, right? The secondary element, and you know, those are the things that at the end of the day that really get me inspired to keep creating and keep delivering value.

Joel Erway: [00:14:09]

So let’s talk about now your info business or your information market that you’re in.

Alden Mills: [00:14:17]

I would call it contentpreneurship.

Joel Erway: [00:14:20]

Contentpreneurship. I like it. I like it.

What does your model look like here? Meaning you’ve got courses, right? You’ve got your books that’s speaking, I don’t know if you do any coaching, but like what does the business model look like for you on in this market?

Alden Mills: [00:14:36]

Okay, so actually I’m working on a course right now. I don’t have a course for sale. The very first thing that started for me when I made the shift from widgets and consumable. Widgets to the mental widget is I went on the speaking circuit five years ago, so I have a robust speaking business and at the same time, I had published a couple of books, be unstoppable and unstoppable teams, and then became an executive coach.

And so I do one-on-one intense coaching, and now I’m looking to expand that into a series of unstoppable courses that are really based around how you lead yourself, how you lead others, and that’s a whole series of mindset training shifts and as well as leadership training.

And then we’ll build out a membership community of what I call swim buddies. A swim buddy is a team used in seal team for the smallest team, right? Anybody out there that’s a solopreneur needs swim buddies. Anybody who’s an entrepreneur, who’s an executive, they all need a trusted swim buddy. And that’s one of the things I get a lot of joy out of, is helping others rise up when they’re thinking, oh, I can’t do it.

They’re stuck in their own fog and then you come in and help them part it and be like, okay, you got this. Right? Whisper in their ear, get up, get after it. You can do it.

Joel Erway: [00:16:18]

I think this will be a great segue to kind of talk about your Navy seal career, your Navy seal history. I didn’t want to lead with it because I didn’t want to sound too gimmicky cause you’ve got a great story, but I’m curious.

It seems to me that as of late, there are lots of former Navy seals that are coming out with information, businesses, speaking, et cetera. More so than I’ve noticed with any other branch of the military. David Goggins, Jocko. There’s Robert O’Neill, excuse me, he was leaving my mind for whatever reason. I couldn’t bring up his name, but Robert or Neil.

What do you think it is about Navy seals that kind of separates you from the rest of the pack? Maybe it’s just me not being aware of other military branches that have been successful entrepreneurs. Do you think there’s something with Navy seals specifically versus other branches of the military?

Alden Mills: [00:17:25]

Well, if you’re asking that, I think like, hey, are Navy seals, you know, better than some other branch? There are so many phenomenal components to our military from green berets and what they do to Marine force recon, to Delta force to TF160 in our helicopter pilots to the air force, a special air force quadrant.

I mean, no. You know, what is going on is now the seals have gotten a lot of the limelight recently. And a lot of that limelight, it’s gotten a lot of intrigue and there’s lots of people that have lots of great stories. All those names you’ve mentioned all have great stories. I do not like to lead with the Navy seal.

However, the moment they hear you’re a Navy seal, they’re like, Oh, I want to hear the Navy seal stories. I don’t feel myself as any kind of hero. You know, I had three great platoons. I felt very blessed to have it when I did. And I also don’t like talking about the component of war with a lot of it.

Yes, there’s lots of metaphors on these kinds of things, but I find it more powerful to discuss the specific elements they do in training. And how you can bridge what they’re teaching us in seal training to use to you as an entrepreneur or as an intrapreneur. Right. I really look at the customer base that I talk to in two areas, intra and entra – preneur.

At the end of the day, you want to be free-thinking no matter what bureaucracy, organization, profit, nonprofit you’re in. And the one great thing about seal team is that you’ve got these three different environments that you’re trained in Sea, Air, and Land, which is what SEALS stands for.

Yes, they’re very known for having some extremely hard training, and they happen to be getting a lot of press on this right now. You know, for the long time we’ve been viewed as kind of an intrapreneur of the Navy. So there’s some really transferable things between seal team and what’s going on in the business world.

However, please let all the audience members know whatever military person you have on the show, whatever their branch is. They’re not civilians, right? Seals and civilians. Those are two different animals. I mean, we even different legal system to deal with. That being said, the mindset to get through some of the hardships that are sometimes created just for training.

Like the hardship of hell week is very analogous for the hardship of launching a business, except how weeks just a week. Right. You can have a hell year in business. Some of the hardest things I’ve ever been through have been starting and growing a business. In particular growing a business when you have people that are relying on you to make the right decisions, so their family is supported.

Joel Erway: [00:20:48]

Yeah and to be clear where my question was coming from was definitely no sign of disrespect to any other sort of military. It was more along the lines of it seemed that I had seen more people in the business space come out as from the Navy seal, and so I was trying to find that correlation of was there any sort of transferable skills, which is what you had said, which is really the words that I was looking for with Navy seals versus maybe other branches of the military.

I think that you had answered that. Just want to be clear on that question

Alden Mills: [00:21:22]

And I want to be clear in the response, like, are sales a little more entrepreneurial on average? I would say they probably are.

Joel Erway: [00:21:29]


Alden Mills: [00:21:31]

That doesn’t make us a better soldier than somebody else, right? There’s a whole bunch of other things that I’m not here saying, oh yeah, we can, we kicked off the force just ass every day and three times on Sunday. Like, no, no, no. That’s not at all. They’re all brothers and they’re all sisters. And feel very blessed to have everybody on that front line today.

Joel Erway: [00:21:50]

100 percent. Absolutely. If you’re listening right now, I’m glad we were able to kind of clear that off cause I didn’t want it to come off ms mrs ministry. And so,

Alden Mills: [00:22:01]

No, I think it’s fair question.

Joel Erway: [00:22:02]


Alden Mills: [00:22:03]

There a lot of us out there today, right?

Joel Erway: [00:22:05]

There are.

Of all the things you’ve been involved in, military, three different lines of businesses. Where would you pick the, I’ll classify ms for like the three markets of business that you’ve been in, plus the plus the military, right?

Where do you feel like you’ve learned the most important lessons to help you succeed with where you are as a leader today?

Like, where would you say the biggest lessons were learned? I’m sure you’ve learned tons of lessons from all of them. I’m just wondering if there’s like one or two that have really stuck out that are staples of what you

Alden Mills: [00:22:56]

You’re keeping me focused with those parameters, right? Seal and the three businesses?

Joel Erway: [00:23:01]

Unless there’s another area that you want to pull out. Those are just the four that we’ve talked about on the podcast. But if there is another experience that you’ve heard, I definitely want to include that a hundred percent.

Alden Mills: [00:23:13]

I would add two experiences on top of my answer of seal team was, you know, you’ve given me just those seal team, because those directly transfer to the mindset of always looking to find a way to get something done. And then the two before that would be my mom and would be the sport of rowing and the short story of my mom, it was that she was there in that doctor’s office today, I was told I had asthma and I needed to lead a less active lifestyle and learn the game of chess.

And I will never forget her dropping to a knee, taking her long fingernails, digging them into my forearm, like a velociraptor claw. Right? And saying no one defines what you can or can’t do. It’s up to you. You have to decide what you can or can’t do. Of course, I didn’t get it that day, right? But I was one of the lucky ones where my parents both kept saying that again.

And so what have you scored, you’re on your own basketball team? Go try another sport. Right? So what have you scored on your own team? And I did that against myself in lacrosse and soccer. I mean, that was terrible. All these ball sports. But then I found the sport of rowing. A couple of years later and then rowing, and we’re talking about eight people and a really skinny boat going backwards and getting these blades in the water at the same time, and the importance of selfless commitment and teamwork and the willingness to work so much harder than you originally thought you could.

Those two laid the foundation for me to succeed in seal training. And then that would be my three-legged stool of places that I have learned and have used those experiences to then apply them and then learn more tactical details of starting businesses and all those things. Cause there’s lots of tactics that you need that right.

Joel Erway: [00:25:23]

When would you say, cause you said when your mom told you that day, when you found out you had asthma and she said no one defines what you can or can’t do, that’s up to you. You said that day, like it didn’t make sense that day. Do you remember the day that it clicked? Like was there a certain event that happened that said that maybe you were able to look back like, okay, well this is what she meant by it, or was there a certain event that kind of made that connection when you finally got it?

Alden Mills: [00:25:50]

I ended up having to go away to school for high school and I got sent out of the state. And it wasn’t because I was necessarily bad child, but probably needed a little extra discipline. And I remember going around the corner as I was coming to this school and I saw these cruise shells go roam by, and it was at that moment where I would say to myself in the past when I’d see a sport and my god, I can’t do that. No, I can’t do that. Right. I would say to myself, I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. And I remember seeing that boat going, I can do that. I want to do that and that little click between I can’t, and I can become a series of cascading I cans to other things, right?

I can row, I can make that second boat. I can make that first boat. I can get recruited to the Naval Academy. I can write the Naval Academy. I can try out for the Olympic team. I can try out for seal team, I can start a business. Right? It was one little thing, snowball to another and another in a positive way.

And I never actually been asked that question before, but that is exactly that moment. It’s that I can still vividly see it. I can see, I can tell you what the day was like. I could see that boat. I’m like, I can do that. And it was like recognizing a belief inside of me that just compounded on itself every time I fulfilled what I thought I could do.

And I think that’s anybody’s entrepreneurial journey, right? They start off gone, I think I can. I’m not sure. I think I can. And they get one success, like, okay, that was pretty good. Let’s do it better now. Right? And when they start the hardest part. It’s flipping from I can’t to I can.

You know, Joel, that is a piece of why I’m on your show, your show is about telling people you can, right? They need that swim buddy that says I can. That’s where my mom was for me. She is my first swim buddy.

When I talked to entrepreneurs, I love getting those light bulb moments of like when you had that vivid vision like you even said it before like, I can still remember crystal clear, vivid vision of when I was walking down, I walked around the corner and I saw those crew boats rolling by, right?

That is what I think is the biggest defining story of who we become. Now the main question that I’ve got like leading up to that, like the next logical question that I have is, I know you’re big in teamwork and leading teams and developing teams.

How do you deal with a team member that is running as that limiting belief? Probably like a crew member or a Navy seal team member, right, that you as the leader have the I can mentality, but how do you deal with a teammate or somebody on your team that might be experiencing an I can’t mentality?

And how do you get them to kind of flip? Because in my mind, it’s gotta be difficult. It’s probably easy for you, but

It’s not easy because everybody responds to it differently, right? And you get the Navy seal coming in going, well, that’s easy for you to say you were a Navy seal and you did this, and you did that, right?

They immediately put distance between me and them, and the very first thing that I always do is kill them with kindness. I care for them. And show them how much I care. And the more you show about how you care for them, and I’m not talking about giving them flowers and cuddling them, I’m talking about caring about them as a person and their fear that they care about.

Right? You see, once people start to really feel cared for that they know you have their back. They’re going to start to surrender some of their fears about their limitations of they can’t, but they’re scared.

They’re scared, and it takes a long time in some cases, for somebody to unpack some of these limitations, surrender that and say, okay, I trust Alden enough because I know how much he cares that I’m going to take this step, which feels like a step off the ramp of the C130, right? They’re jumping off the ramp. They got this parachute that they packed, but they don’t even know if they packed it right. And they’re worried and I mean, it’s that kind of fear.

And the more empathetic you can be as a leader to be like, Hey, you know the virtual I’m putting my arm around you going, I know this fear. I’ve been there. Let me tell you this story. That’s the kind of care I’m referring to, right? And get them to understand that it’s normal. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

And that together, I will not let you fail. You may look at a tactical failure as a failure. I don’t, as long as you get back up and I help you get back up. It’s just we learned another way not to do something. The only failure is not getting back up. And when you start to give them that perspective of what failure really is, is that hallelujah, you are failing?

And I will tell you, that was a precursor to that. In everybody that I ever interview and anybody that works with me, I do the interviewing, or at least I’m involved in the interview process. I’ll ask them, Hey, tell me about your most spectacular failures. And I’ll get all fired up and excited, and they’ll look at me like, Ooh, Oh, uh, you know, and.

It’s the people that go, Oh, gee, you know, I’m really sorry, but, um, I just really haven’t had that many failures. I mean, I guess, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just that good, or I’ve just been lucky and I’m like, Oh, really? Hmm. Well, you failed this interview. Have a good day. And the interview is over. But the people are like, Oh, let me tell you about this one.

I did this and I did this, and whammo I failed like that. I start to already set the tone before they’ve ever even come onto my team. That, oh yeah, I’ve done a lot more failing than I have succeeding. You just hear about my successes. You didn’t hear about the 10 years of failures to get the perfect pushup out the door and all the products that came before that.

Right? And when you start setting the context of the type of teammate that you’re going to have, then your job’s a little easier. Right? It’s when you haven’t set the context and you think everyone has to be perfect all the time, and when they feel that way, they immediately narrow their focus on what they’re going to be willing to take a risk on.

The other way around. I mean, I’m not asking you to shoot from the hip, but I’m asking you to make decisions without perfect information, right? That’s what leadership is about. I want you to make these risky decisions with it with a small amount of information. I mean, not minuscule, you know, I like how Colin Powell said, you know, between 40 and 70% of the information is all you’re going to ever get.

So that’s how you give you a little context when somebody does come and that happens still, right? Oh, she all know about this product. And they’re like, well, let’s put this in context. Let’s look at this, but we’re in this together. My name’s on it too. Don’t you worry about it.

Joel Erway: [00:34:06]

I love what you said there.

I wrote it down. You said once they know you have their back, they will surrender their fears of I can’t because they’re scared. Right. And so that seems like that’s like it, right. They’re scared and that’s why they go from, I can’t to I can. That was really powerful. I remember as soon as you said it, I’m like somebody jumping out of a plane, then boom.

You said if you had the analogy of the C130, I can’t remember if that was the name of the plane

Alden Mills: [00:34:37]

Yeah it is C130. That was my first free-fall jump. I often tell that story on stage because I think that’s very analogous to anybody who’s, you know, thinking they’ve been, maybe they’ve watched your show and they’re like, Oh, you know what?

I’ve always wanted to do this, but I don’t know if I can do it. And you know, and they’re getting to the edge, but they haven’t finally gotten to get to the edge. And I’m like, Oh. And then the instructor comes up, grabs her hand and says, okay, let’s jump together. Oh. Now the key thing is that when you’re flying through there, the instructor doesn’t grab your parachute report for you.

The structure says, okay, now you got to open your parachute and now we’re going to fly it down. You’re going to follow me, but you gotta open your parachute. You have to do that, right? You have to be the one that actually takes the step. They’re waiting for you and freefall school for you to take the step off of there.

Because if you get pushed into it and you do that a couple more times, you’re like, okay, this really isn’t for me. Right? Everybody needs a nudge at the right time, but in that, again, going back to why I wanted to be on your show, is that’s what you’re doing here. Right? There can be a bunch of people that are on the ramp.

Maybe they’re in flight, maybe they’re like, Oh my gosh, my parachute didn’t open. I got a malfunction and I got to open my reserve and Oh, I’m landing in the wrong spot. Or the winds have shifted because this thing called Kovens come across and now what do I do? We got ya, right? I’m a swim buddy for you.

We can do this. We got to shift gears, but it’s doable. You just have to get out of the mindset of, I can’t, and now let’s think of ways that I can.

Joel Erway: [00:36:37]

It’s the ultimate leap for somebody who jumps into entrepreneurship because so many people are stuck on that ledge because they’re thinking of problems that don’t yet exist. They’re creating problems in their mind that may or may not happen. At least that’s what I’ve experienced with people that are in my tribe.

They will come to me and say, Joel, what about this? Or what about that? It’s like, how do you know that’s even going to happen? Yes, problems are going to happen, but they’re creating problems before they even experienced them. So I love that. That shift from going from I can’t to I can.

Alden Mills: [00:37:13]

You know what I call those problems, Joel?

Joel Erway: [00:37:16]

What’s that?

Alden Mills: [00:37:17]

Those are negative hypotheticals.

Joel Erway: [00:37:20]


Alden Mills: [00:37:20]

And you’re exactly correct. You know, we have this negativity bias. We have a tendency to emphasize negative or positive. Neuroscientists will say it takes somewhere between three and five positives to offset the negative, but then if negativity takes root, what ends up happening next is we have a series of cascading events in our head that then do if then statements, well, wait a minute, if this happened.

Well then that’s going to happen. And when that happens, then this next thing’s going to happen. Oh my God, I shouldn’t even start this project because that’s disaster. Right? But they have extrapolated a series of hypotheticals that are so beyond what could actually happen. I mean, okay, maybe a 0.11110%.

But that’s a key piece of a coach. T’was like, Hey, stop with the negative hypotheticals. Stay in the moment right now. Focus right now. What can I do right now? And I use this term called focus on the moment, not the mountain. In my off time. I like to climb a mountain every year. And, and I also, I tell the story about climate Denali and Denali is a huge mountain, right?

Takes 15 days to get there and you don’t see the summit for long time and it sucks, right? You got 120 pounds of gear, 65 pounds on your back, and really like 130 pounds and 65 in the sled and you’re slogging for days. You can’t see the mountaintop. Do you think it is helpful to think about the mountain in front of you?

No, no, you totally psych yourself out. You’d be like, wait a minute. It sucks so bad right now, and I’m only in day two and I got to do this at higher altitude and steeper pitches and all the all, forget it. I’m out, man. Woo. Game over! Right? But that’s the same thing with what we deal with in entrepreneurship. Oh man, I launched my product, and nobody bought it.

Oh, well, if nobody bought it, then I suck in my product suck and it just can’t work and Oh, this was a bad idea in the first place, and people are laughing at me. It’s over. What? You only launched it yesterday. Come on. Anyhow, you see, you got me on a rant right now.

Joel Erway: [00:39:52]

Rant. It’s one every entrepreneur needs to hear because it happens when you’re launching, and it happens every part of business that I’ve been a part of right in my young business career.

I mean, it’s going to happen over and over and again, it’s just going to matriculate in, manifest into different forms, different beings. We went on a little bit of a leadership tangent there, but it got me, I loved it.

Like I’m huge into leadership right now and learning how different styles of leadership and different methodologies and your leadership, it seems, I don’t want to paint a broad brush, but using your own words, you said, kill them with kindness cause there’s lots of different forms of leadership.

Did you, how do I ask this? I want to make sure I asked this question properly. When did you know that you wanted to be a leader of some sort? Was it before Navy seals? Was it when you were younger? Like when did you really get the drive to become a leader when you knew really what leadership was? Or maybe it was before you even really knew what leadership was.

Alden Mills: [00:41:14]

Here’s how I look at leadership and I call it the mirror effect. In leadership, the most important leadership we can all have is how we lead ourselves. You see how we lead ourselves becomes a reflection of how we are going to lead our teams. Teams are nothing more than a reflection of how we lead ourselves, right?

Let me give you a super simple example. We lead ourselves to show up five minutes to a meeting that we called for, though he let ourself to be five minutes late. What do you think that communicates to the rest of your team? It’s okay to be five minutes late. He’s five minutes late. It’s not a big deal, right?

It’s okay to show up a little late for work. It’s okay to push a deadline. It’s okay to not really go all in because we got other things that are more important. It’s okay not to push ourselves. Right.

Versus somebody who’s like, Hey, if we’re not five minutes early, we’re late. Like I value my time with you and I respect your time. I’m going to be there. How did people respond to that? How did people respond to you walking in saying, okay, we’ve got an unprecedented crisis right here. Let’s figure out ways to lead in this and take an opportunity, because we all know that they’re equal and opposite forces in the universe, right? I didn’t make that up.

That’s a law of physics. So for every amount of uncertainty, there is an equal amount of opportunity. So let’s figure out how to go after it, right? How does that kind of leadership cascade, it happens from you, right? How you yourself, like I don’t like the fact that a lot of people were like, well, I’m not a leader.

I would almost swear right there. That’s ridiculous. We are all leaders. The question is, how many are following you. Right? You’re leading yourself to get out of bed every morning. You’re leading yourself to decide to watch this show. How many are following you because they like how you’re leading yourself, you’re with me on this?

Joel Erway: [00:43:46]

Super powerful. That’s super powerful. How many are following you because they like how you are leading yourself?

Alden Mills: [00:43:54]

That’s what this is all about here, right? And why do we get so frustrated with some politicians? Why do we get so frustrated with some leaders versus others? You’re like, Hey, wait a second.

We thought you were one thing and now you’re a different thing, right? I tell this story about seal training early on, and it’s with this guy who had his left butt cheek shot off by a rocket propelled grenade, and he’s talking about lots of different things, but one thing he says is, it ain’t complicated.

It’s hard, but it ain’t complicated. And what he’s talking about is consistency. It’s hard to be consistent. It’s hard to show up early every time. It’s hard to look at a positive outlook instead of a negative outlook. People would always say to me, well, you just have the positive gene. You know, you were just lucky to be positive.

Like I wasn’t always positive. No. I had to make some really hard decisions when I was stuck, and I got pulled out of seal training the first time around for an injury. Lo and behold, with a lung infection, and I had to decide my own plight. That I want to focus on the misery that loves company or do I want to make something magnificent go on here.

And the only way I could do that was start to focus on the things I could control, right? You and I can talk to everybody until they’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones that are got to make that step off the ramp. They’re the ones that have got to finally decide, okay, I’m going to give up on that old, I can’t attitude and I’m going to try this thing.

And I don’t want them to just try it. It’s not good enough to try it. I want them to go all in on it. They got a feel in their gut. I gave it everything I had and more than I thought, because you know that’s what this is all about, right? And you know how good it feels that exhaustion of when you’ve just given it your all, it was pure, full agency of your soul.

Some people are like, Oh my God, that sucks. You were like, yeah, but it felt good, you know, and it was worth it.

Joel Erway: [00:46:17]

I think everybody can pull, yep, sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

I think everybody can pull through there one of those stories, like one of those past experiences, like if they need motivation, like there’s got to be one point in your life where you gave it your all, you know, you’re beat to the ground, you’re winded.

Feel like you’re like you literally are on your last thread. But you know, deep down it felt freaking good. Like regardless of what the outcome was that just feels invigorating.

Alden Mills: [00:46:50]

Yeah. I gave it all I had, and you know what, the next day you’re going to be like, I’m going to do it again.
And when we can help people build that kind of a habit. Well then, you’re unstoppable. You are.

Joel Erway: [00:47:05]


Alden Mills: [00:47:05]

Cause you’ll look at every obstacle is an opportunity. You’ll start to realize that it’s all right in here, just in here. Right. And then when you get a couple more people to get the same mindset of the leading that you’re doing of yourself and you help them do the same kind of leading, now we’re going to make a dent in the universe.

Joel Erway: [00:47:30]

That’s amazing. So I want to ask one final question before we wrap up cause we’re coming to the end of our allotted time and I want to respect your time. The one thing that you had said regarding leadership that I want to get your opinion on. You said the real question is, you said we’re all leaders.

The real question is, how many are following you because they like how you are leading yourself? If I were to take that a step further, is it right to assume that people are following you because they want to be like you? Or is that a false assumption? Like are they following you because they see that they want to be what you are becoming in terms of their vision or a version of you? Or is that a false assumption?

Alden Mills: [00:48:20]

I would say there is a followership there because they trust you. Because there is a consistency of how you are leading yourself, right? And that they are trusting what you’re doing. I’m not making any assumption. Everyone’s like, Oh, I want to grow up and be just like Alden. I don’t want them to be like Alden.

I want them to be their authentic self. But one of the things that I try to commit to every day is to be my authentic self. Right? At the end of the day, I don’t want a team of Aldens. I want a team of authentic people so I can get diversity of thought. Right?

That’s why we’re after diversity. It’s not diversity just for the sake of it. We want the diversity of thought. We want the different perspectives. The reason people are clamoring about diversity, like, well, you grew up over here and you’re from this culture and you know this skill is that you all have these diverse experiences which are going to bring different perspectives.

And when all of that’s put on the table, then we can make something magical happen, right? The problem will then come back to the leader, who’s got an ego problem. It’s got an insecurity problem. They’re like, well, wait a minute. That person might have a better idea than me. I can’t let that happen. I’m going to squash that person. I’m going to cut them off at the knees before they even get that idea out, or I’m going to steal that idea, right?

Stealing that idea is going to last you one time because that other great idea person is out of there. They were like, what? But that was my idea. You didn’t even give me credit for it. You know? And so when I talk about that, I’m talking about it from the highest level of, and when I mean followership, the end of the day a leader serves, right?

I use this term all the time. To lead is to serve, to serve is to care. And the real followership is you serving others and the people are coming to you. To work with you, not for you, and the reason they’re following you is that you care so much about them that they’re giving and reciprocating on care to you.

Joel Erway: [00:50:41]

Yeah. Man. Alden, we covered a ton of stuff today. This is a fantastic conversation, and it went on a nice little pivot at the end towards leadership. I told you I’m on a leadership kick, so I appreciate you being open with your thoughts on that, but just do a quick recap of everything that we kind of discussed today.

I mean, we discussed obviously your journey of how you became, not necessarily how you became an entrepreneur, but it was more along the lines of, you know, what you’ve accomplished which was fantastic. We even went back to the stories and the events that happened in your life of, you know.

When your mom told you like, Hey, no one defines what you can or can’t do, that’s up to you. That was obviously a very, very pivotal moment for you that led you to rowing. And then we talked about the series of events that happened to all those different can’t to can moments that developed who you are today.

We then went into leadership. We talked about focus on the moment, not the mountain. It’s obviously most important with how we lead ourselves. We asked the question of how many are following you because they like how you’re leading yourself and that’s ultimately because they trust you.

Not that they want to be like you, but you want to build a team of diverse people and build a team of people who are showing up as their authentic self. And for me that’s a huge takeaway as I’m learning this whole art of leadership, I always need to know the reason why, right?

Why do I show up as a leader? Why do I show up consistently? And that was a selfish question for myself. Like is it because people want to be like me? No, that’s not the right answer. It’s because we want to lead them to be their authentic self. They’re looking at you for trust. And they’re looking at you to see who you really are and that gives them the fear release.

This is my interpretation by the way, but that gives them the fear release so they can show up who as their authentic self. Those are the big takeaways that I got from this conversation.

Alden Mills: [00:52:48]

I love it. I want a copy of it.

Joel Erway: [00:52:55]

Excellent. So let’s drop some links. Where can people follow you? Where can people check out your stuff, your books. Where can they learn more about you?

Alden Mills: [00:53:05]

So I have a website alden-mills.com and I am doing a daily swim buddy post right now on Instagram TV at alden_mills.

So you’ll see me do it six days a week. I started doing it in the quarantine and I get really passionate about helping people through this time period as not to survive, but to thrive. Right, so they can find me there. alden-mills.com and alden_mills at Instagram TV.

Joel Erway: [00:53:40]

Excellent. We’ll make sure to include those links in the show notes.

If you are listening right now, you enjoy this episode, please, please encourage you, go check out Alden’s sites, go follow him, go tune into his daily swim buddy. And if ever, get a chance to connect with them, let them know that you heard him here on experts unleashed.

Alden, thanks again, my man.

Fantastic conversation. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and your wisdom and your inspiration with my audience. And until next time, we’ll see you in the next episode. Take care.

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