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Jeff Lerner

Jeff Lerner is the founder and CEO of Entre Institute, a platform that teaches people how to build business’ and make a living in non-traditional ways.

Digital real estate
Digital real estate

Digital real estate

Ep
106
Nov
11
With
Jeff Lerner
Or Listen On:

Digging yourself out of debt.

Jeff Lerner is the founder and CEO of Entre Institute, a platform that teaches people how to build business’ and make a living in non-traditional ways. Which makes sense, because when he was a kid he dropped out of high school and taught himself jazz piano to pay the bills.

Eventually, he traded the piano keys for a keyboard, started his own affiliate marketing business and dug himself out of insurmountable debt—about $400K to be exact.

Jeff and Chris talk about the concept of digital real estate and the long game behind creating wealth from an online business. They also get pretty raw about the experiences that fuel our guest's death defying drive to be good at things.

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Episode Transcript

Jeff:
If you're successful, success leaves clues, success leaves bread crumbs. And if somebody's gone behind themselves and swept away all the breadcrumbs, it's probably not a very good sign. I've been on the Inc. 5000 twice. I have won two eight figure awards from ClickFunnels. These are things that can't be hidden nor can they be faked. And I think that, yeah, caveat emptor in the world we live in, it's very reasonable to err on the side of skepticism.

Greg:
Hey, I'm Greg Gunn, and welcome to The Futur Podcast. Today's guest is the founder and CEO of ENTRE Institute; a platform that teaches people how to build businesses and make a living in nontraditional ways. Which makes total sense because when our guest was a kid, he dropped out of high school and taught himself jazz piano to pay the bills. And as a failed musician myself, I totally understand that decision. Eventually, he traded the piano keys for a keyboard and started his own affiliate marketing business and dug himself out of insurmountable debt. And by insurmountable, I mean $400,000.
He and Chris talk about the concept of digital real estate and the long game behind creating wealth from an online business. They also get pretty raw about the experiences that fuel our guests' death defying drive to be good at things. It's really interesting to listen to. Now while researching his business, I found a few 'Is This Legit' articles, which gave me pause. And I don't know about you, but I'm inherently skeptical of any business guru types, so to speak, but everyone has a story. And I have no doubt that today's guest worked extremely hard throughout his. Please enjoy our conversation with Jeff Lerner.

Chris:
This is very interesting. I think there's been an exchange of emails and I'm all spun around into circles because I'm going to be on your podcast pretty soon as well.

Jeff:
That's right.

Chris:
Because I signed up all the questionnaire so this is a super cool. Okay, I've got a bunch of questions I just want to jump into. I have watched a few of your videos on YouTube. I've listened to a couple of your podcasts and I'm familiar with your story at this point, but let me just start off because I want to try to extract some value for our audience who might not know who you are. So first, can you just introduce yourself, tell us what you do. Give us the 30-second bit.

Jeff:
Of course, yeah. My name is Jeff Lerner. I am the founder and CEO of a platform called ENTRE Institute and we basically are an entrepreneurial education. We teach people how to build businesses in the new economy and obviously leverage all this great technology and opportunity out there to create a life and an income in non traditional ways, non brick and mortar ways per se. And my background, I was a professional jazz piano player in my 20s, which meant that I did what I loved right up to the point where I was poor. And that part I didn't love.
And it was just a hard life. I was always starting businesses. Late 20s opened a franchise restaurant right into the great recession, lost half a million dollars, was in debt up to my eyeballs with nothing to do but play piano. And you can't play enough gigs to work your way out of half a million dollars in debt. So I went online, started learning affiliate marketing. And for the last 12 years I've been doing various online businesses and have not only dug my way out of that hole, but built a pretty nice life on top of it.

Chris:
And if you've watched any of Jeff's videos on YouTube, and I'm going to recommend that and include those links in the show notes so you guys can check that out, you can see your house and you talk about these things. You're a real guy with a real house and a real family and real cars that you own. Let's just go right to it. These days it's very difficult to spot a person who's doing something genuinely out of the spirit of generosity who actually has a product that can actually help you to grow financially, spiritually, physically, all that. And there's a term that goes around a lot now, it's called fake guru. It's called contrepreneur and it does seem from the outside that they're all very similar. How can we spot the differences between someone who's legitimate versus somebody who's not?

Jeff:
Yeah, that's a great question. And actually I had somebody comment on one of my Instagram ads today. They said, "Coffeezilla will tell us the truth." You know Coffeezilla, right?

Chris:
I do.

Jeff:
So I was actually like, sweet, I'm on Coffeezilla's radar, man, I must be doing something right. And I'm like, bring it on. I'll submit to an interview or an interrogation's probably a better word for what they do. If you're successful, success leaves clues, success leaves breadcrumbs. And if somebody's gone behind themselves and swept away all the breadcrumbs, it's probably not a very good sign. I have 1,100 endorsements on my LinkedIn page that I've collected over the last 15 years. I've been on the Inc. 5000, twice. I have won two eight figure awards from ClickFunnels. These are things that can't be hidden nor can they be faked. And I think that, yeah, caveat emptor in the world we live, it's very reasonable to err on the side of skepticism, but not so much so that you stay willfully ignorant when you do find someone who's actually done the thing and does it well.

Chris:
Okay. So I hope you don't mind, but Coffeezilla has built up a reputation for himself just by having these heated discussions. I don't think I'm going to have one with you, but people do accuse me of similar things as like, huh. So it made me really think, and I want to draw that line in the sand and maybe you and I are going to have a difference of opinions here. One of the things I say is if somebody is pitching you, that you don't have to have any skill, you don't have to have anything special or unique about you and you could do something that's easy and that you're going to make a lot of money and you don't have to work very hard, I'm already nervous about them right away. Because one of the things I will tell anybody that wants to take on our courses is you need to be good. You need to be willing to work really hard because this is not easy. And this is what makes your skill, your talent scarce and therefore, valuable. So maybe you have a different take on that. I'm just curious.

Jeff:
I have an identical take on that. One of my Instagram quotes from the last couple of months basically says, essentially the definition of a scam is anything that offers, I forget exactly, anything offers to make your life better without you having to get better. I have our ENTRE core beliefs framed right here. Number one is we eagerly do hard things well. I would liken my approach to online business to the Navy seals approach to military conflict, that if you want to be great in an industry where 99% struggle, you're going to have to be elite and it's going to come down to... Probably the number one quote that I say the most is Jim Rohn. He said, "Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better." I'm actually pretty ruthless. If anything, I try to scare people away.
Listen, I'm elite at what I do. I joined an affiliate marketing program in 2008 that had 40,000 members and within six months I was in the top five. So I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it's probable. In fact, one of our core values is we favor possibility over probability. I'm not going to tell you it's probable. It's highly improbable, but that doesn't mean it's not possible because as soon as you make the decision to be excellent, and by the way, that word excellence is at the root of everything we do in my community, as soon as you make the decision to be excellent and to do everything that comes with that decision to make it not just lip service, you immediately differentiate yourself from about 90% of the people out there.
And I always talk about the difference between manmade odds and math-made odds. If you're playing roulette and you put all your money on 14, you have a one in 36 chance or whatever it is. That's math, nothing you can do to change that. But manmade odds are very malleable because if you have drive and commitment and intensity and obsession and a ruthless commitment to excellence, and frankly, a willingness to be very, very strange in the world we live in, a level of intensity that makes you bizarre to most people, you actually shape the odds. You go from, oh, it's statistically improbable. It's one in 100, great. But if I'm working harder than 97% of people, just that alone puts me in the top 3%. So if it's 1% that make it, now the odds are actually only one in three for me. So what else can I do to shave the margin? I'm unapologetic. You've got to be great.

Chris:
This is perfect. I see that you're firing up here so I think we're starting this off great. It's later in the day for me so it's like, this is the energy shot, that shot of caffeine that we're going to get here. I want to circle back to a couple of things. What made you out of 40,000 people, the top five? What traits did you exhibit? What did you do differently in 2008 in the height of the recession depression that we're in?

Jeff:
I have been training for this my whole life. When I was 16 years old, I realized that if I didn't figure out how to get really, really good at doing things on my own, I was going to have to get a job. And I had one job in the summer that year between my sophomore and junior year for three weeks, and I got fired. I was an office supply clerk at a big law firm, which meant that I pushed a cart and delivered staples and print cartridges and paper clips to relatively unhappy secretaries because they took a lot of crap from their bosses who were attorneys, and they passed it down to the lowly clerk, who was me. And I was like, this is it. I'm out. I'm out on this whole corporate structural establishment world.
I never want anything to do with it, but oh shit, if I don't figure out... I don't want to be homeless. I don't want to live under a bridge. So I became a musician. I started teaching myself to play the piano. I had dabbled in it before, but I loved music, but not so much that it was like, oh, I have this deep song of my soul that I need to share with the world. It was more like pragmatic. Like what can I do where I can make a pretty good hourly wage and work when I want, say yes to things, say no to things, have some control and still be doing something I really enjoy, and it was music that was... And I chose the piano because pianists, they earn the most out of working musicians because they can do a gig, they can cover two parts at once.
They can play and sing and be essentially a one man band, which means they can make a lot more money than say a bass player, who's always sharing the pot with at least three or four other musicians. I feel like there's really pragmatic thing I did as a teenager, but I was late, I was almost 17 when I started. So the whole 10,000 hours thing, I didn't have that label for it, but I realized like, I got a practice. I dropped out of high school because I'm like, high school. Isn't sending me where I want to go. The diploma path isn't going to help me get gigs. Dropped out of high school, started practicing 10 hours a day. And thus was the first time in my life that sitting in a forward leaning position at a keyboard, though it was a piano keyboard, became my salvation.
And I was self taught. And by the time I was 19 or 20, I was getting gigs for food. I went and auditioned six times to get into the piano performance department at University of Houston and on the sixth audition, which auditions were on the semester, so it was three years of auditioning as a self-taught player, who didn't start until he was 17, by the time I was 20, I got into that... It was a conservatory type environment, very competitive. Self-taught and I ended up getting a scholarship to play first chair piano in the jazz orchestra there, and just worked in and gigged and grinded. And I probably worked 100 hours a week. I was playing eight to nine gigs a week for the better part of a decade. During the day, I tried being a loan officer.
I tried flipping houses. I invested my college savings that my parents had saved up for me. And I should say I was able to get into college even without a high school diploma, which was a whole other... I basically developed some sales skills and was able to woo and charm someone. I can take you through the whole narrative. It's like Pilgrim's Progress, but the bottom line is I got really, really good at self-determined, highly improbable outcomes because I was so steadfast about never signing up for the mainstream plan of get a job and do what people tell you. So by the time I was 28 years old, there were all these reasons why it made no sense to do what I did.
And my stupid human trick is the ability to just ignore all those reasons. I can ignore sanity better than anyone you know. And when you do that and you just burn your boat... You don't even burn your boats, you just forget that they're there. There is no escape route and you just make it work. And I ended up becoming a trainer and a coach and a mentor in that community of affiliate marketers. And again, this is where I talk about manmade odds versus math-made odds, 98% of the people in that community disqualified themselves from the possibility of success because they were never really all in to begin with. Does that make sense?

Chris:
Yeah. Okay, I'm looking at you because I don't want to interrupt you, but there's a lot of things that you've already said that I just want to circle back to.

Jeff:
Sure.

Chris:
The first question I have for you, and this is a small question, because I think there are big questions and there are small questions, but you took this job at the legal firm, I could not imagine a more boring job, but you took it. I assume they just didn't give it to you, that you applied for it so did you not know that about yourself that you didn't want to do this corporate thing?

Jeff:
It was the final cathartic shedding of the skin of normalcy for me. My mom was an attorney at a competing firm and she lined it up. This is what all the kids of attorneys at big firms did was they went and interned at other firms and there was a swap program. And it was like for three weeks, I pretended that I was this person that I knew I wasn't, but my mom hooked it up. And she was like, "You're 16, you need to get a job. And you can either go work at McDonald's or you can go... I'll hook you up with this intern thing." And in that context, it made some sense, but like I said, three weeks, I got myself fired. It was a total act of self sabotage because I knew I needed to get out of there or I might never get out of there.

Chris:
Okay. Here's the other part in your story that made me smile a little bit; so you said that you wanted to figure out something where you didn't have to do the corporate thing, but not starve and then your answer was to be a musician. I was thinking that's not the normal answer somebody would say because I think a musician, it's a hard life. It's a hard life isn't it?

Jeff:
It I but I say not starve, I literally mean not starve. As long as I could afford food, I would be okay. I grew up with a lot of money. My mom was an attorney, my dad was a money manager, and I was a very frustrated and anxious and somewhat unhappy kid. I had already dissociated money from joy.

Chris:
I see.

Jeff:
But music made me happy and I could make a living at it.

Chris:
Okay. And when your parents found out that you wanted to drop out of high school, what was their reaction?

Jeff:
Well, I didn't tell them initially. I just started skipping school.

Chris:
I'm starting to get a sense of you, Jeff, just a little bit.

Jeff:
I got no secrets. Tell Coffeezilla, sign me up. I got no secrets. So yeah, about halfway through, well, in the second semester of my junior year, my parents got a call from the Houston Independent School District truancy officer saying something to the effect of, "In two months, your son has missed like 27 days of school. If he comes back to school, if we see him on campus, he's going to be ticketed for truancy." My mom's an attorney. She's like, "So you're saying you want my son to come back to school because he's been missing too much but if he actually shows up, you're going to fine us his parents?" Because I was driving my car to a parking lot and just napping all day.

Chris:
Oh my God.

Jeff:
And so my mom, an attorney at a big five law firm, it's a big national firm, she marched right down to school and helped me withdraw. And said, "Listen, son, you make your bed, you sleep in it but you know we'll always support you. Not financially, but we love you and if this is what you want to do, you can do it, but it's not going to be easy." And I said, "That's fine. Honestly, mom, I just want to play the piano. I wish I didn't have to leave the house. And I wish I didn't have to go nap in a parking garage. I wish I could just stay home and play piano." And they actually bought me a piano and said, "Okay, son, this is it. Go for it."

Chris:
Wow. Okay. You have pretty cool parents, I have to say that.

Jeff:
I do.

Chris:
Because both of their professions, not to speak of their personality, they sound very square; a money manager and an attorney, but here they are helping you to withdraw and still defending you and protecting you and saying, "Okay, you want to do this crazy thing. You want to play piano, go for it." It sounds like the antithesis of what their values are, but who knows, but this is really cool. So you have super supportive parents and that gives me a little insight to you as a child. Here's the other thing I want to ask you. And my therapist has asked me these kind of questions to where I say, "I decided at 17, I don't want to do this anymore." And she said, "Well, let me ask you this question. Would you trust a 17 year old to make a lifelong decision?" Here you are at 16, 17 yourself saying, "I'm done with high school. I'm going to play the piano and this is what I want." Looking back on that. Asking you the same question, would you trust a 16, 17 year old to make a lifelong decision?

Jeff:
No, but I also respect the difference between a considered decision and an inevitable and unyielding expression of who a person deeply is, where it's not really a choice. This is a strong inflammatory language; I would probably have committed suicide by now if I had tried to stay on a traditional path.

Chris:
You already knew that about yourself.

Jeff:
It's that deep man. I didn't choose this. And I think my parents saw like our son, it goes beyond being strong-willed. He is uniquely suited for a life of, I don't know if it's chaos or unpredictability or just Bohemian existence and he's uniquely unsuited for a mainstream life. And we have to honor that whether we like it or not.

Chris:
Okay. Excellent. All right. Let's just jump forward a little bit in time. You said that of these 40,000 people, that 98% showed up but weren't really committed. This was not do or die for them. And by virtue of that, you're now only competing against the 2% that show up. And then your background, your whole idea like I got to make it and I've tried lots of things and this is how I'm going to do it, is that one of your secrets to success?

Jeff:
Yeah. I have a deep belief in my ability to get myself good at things, like you have. I've read up on your story before I came on here and you're exceptionally good at what you do. And what you do are things that can only be taught to a point, they have to be discovered and developed from within. Nobody can just superimpose their knowledge onto you and thus, you become good at these things that you do. You had to build that. And I have a pretty strong belief in my ability to do the same thing within my wheelhouse, whatever it is. I'm a learner, man. I'm a learner, I can't help it.

Chris:
It's in your name.

Jeff:
Yeah, and you're a doer.

Chris:
Okay, touche. You did great there. Okay, I'm flummoxed right now. Okay. The question I wanted to ask you, and you said this about, there are math-made odds, and this is really interesting to me, and manmade odds. So I understand math. It's like, you can wish it to be different, you could pray it to be different, but it is what it is. A coin toss is always going to be 50/50, it doesn't matter how many heads in a row. It's always going to be 50/50. That's statistics. It begs the question then are manmade odds just all mental constructs? Are these just the stories we tell ourselves? Because to me it's either science or it's not.

Jeff:
Yeah. I think that it is science, it's neurology. There's things within the mind that we don't understand. That doesn't mean they don't operate by quantifiable principles, it just means we haven't figured them out yet or maybe we never will, but they do operate according to laws, so to speak. And yes, absolutely, I appreciate that you volunteered about your interaction with your therapist. Dude, I have done so much therapy. I love therapy. Therapy, it's the medication that most people need more than the medication they take. And my therapist comes from the Adlerian school, post-Freud, Alfred Adler, and Alfred Adler and then rational emotive behavior therapy Ellis. There's kind of a whole school and align that really, really goes into childhood constructs.
And that basically we had certain attitudes and beliefs that we created about the world roughly between the time we were like seven and 10, 11 years old, pre-puberty. And children are incredible observers and they're horrible translators. And yet at this time when we don't have the context to really figure out what things mean, we're forming all of our primary beliefs about the world. It's actually kind of silly. I don't know why God set it up that way, but who are we to... It is what it is. We just have to play the hand we're dealt. And so, yeah, I believe that a lot of people have belief sets that ultimately tell them that dependency is a required state and that they have to be dependent on... And really frankly, if you track the last couple centuries of human development, it's been a drift towards dependency.
We're dependent on these big structures that have gotten so convoluted we don't even really see them. You think about, what does it mean to have a corporate job? Go try telling a Western frontier settler 200 years ago, try to describe to them what it looks like to go work at Deloitte & Touche and ask them to accept that for their existence. There's no way. But it's happened in tiny little incremental adjustments over time and all the creature comforts lull us into thinking that it's better. But I don't know, man, for some reason, I've just had this fierce streak of like, I want to be alive more than I want to be comfortable. And we live in a world now where you can. It wasn't reasonable. Comfort was the reasonable choice for the majority of human existence.
You go to the proletarian in London in the 16th century, or you go to the medieval farmer, the guy working in the field of the Lord and be like, "Dude, I got air conditioning. I got a cure for malaria." And they're like, "Sign me up, man. I want that." But now, with the internet, that's what I realized in 2008 is man, I've been sitting at the wrong keyboard. The internet's this whole other world. We've entered into an era we don't even really understand, where so much of what we've been conditioned to think that we need is a vestige of our parents and our grandparents. And I just bought into that about 10, maybe 15 years before I think the majority, I think in the next 10 years. I actually think this COVID thing has been a massive awakening for people. I'm grateful that I embraced it in 2008 because I got a big running start.

Greg:
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back with more from Jeff Lerner.

Ben Burns:
Hey, Ben burns from The Futur here. If you don't recognize my voice, you might know me from our YouTube channel as the friendly guy with the big beard. Yup, that's me. Listen, The Futur's mission is to teach a billion creatives how to make money doing what they love without feeling gross about it. And let's be honest, historically, we creative types are great at producing the work, but not so great at running the business, especially when it comes to things like sales, marketing, and money. I know personally, I used to struggle with all of those.
Now, fortunately for you though, we have a slew of courses and products designed specifically to help you run your business better. These are tools like The Complete Case Study and The Perfect Proposal. These things are there to help you attract new clients and then wow them with a thorough and professional presentation. Now you can go even deeper with one of our business courses, like project management, how to find clients and the intensive business bootcamp. Check out all of our courses and products about running a creative business by visiting thefutur.com/business.

Greg:
Welcome back to our conversation with Jeff Lerner.

Chris:
You said that children are terrific observers and horrible translators. I believe that, and maybe even adults, we make up stories all the time about the quality of the wine that we're drinking because of the label that's on it, that the quality of our life and our relationships based on the badge on our car. So we're still horrible translators of things, but take me back to seven to 12 years old, pre-puberty. Can you give me an example of something that you talk about in the past where, not necessarily about you, but where we see this, we observe it and we tell ourselves this other story. Because I do want to get into the whole mindset part, which is the manmade story, the thing that's not real that you're telling yourself and you help people to unlock that presumably.

Jeff:
Yeah. Probably the thing you need to understand the most about me, if you want to understand me, is I grew up with a genetic condition. I have something called Waardenburg syndrome, which doesn't actually affect me, except that I believe that for most of my life, I believed that it affected me dramatically. I get some hate online now and people say, "Oh, he's got downs syndrome. He can't have babies. Those can't be his kids." I got like a little bit of a look or whatever but when I was growing up, there were some really awkward times when I got teased a lot. And I'll tell you, I had this epiphany a few months ago and I'm not directly answering your question, but I probably am hopefully illuminating my childhood.
Somebody asked me, "Why do you really, really do what you do, Jeff? Frankly, you're at the point you don't actually need the money." It doesn't mean I'm where I want to be, I'm still pursuing next levels, but I could be okay if I didn't do what I'm doing. And I said if I'm honest, if I just peel back the veil all the way and get into probably my most, I don't know that I'm proud of this or not, what I always wanted, I knew I didn't fit in because other kids made me feel like I didn't fit in, but I always wanted to be popular. So I look at what I do now and I'm like, hey, I think I cracked that code.
I got a big audience, I got a bunch of fans, but I don't fit in. So good on me. It took me 40 years but I think that when I was a kid, just the belief that I was so foreign and so alien and so... I say alien, I used to have dreams about aliens coming to earth to take me home. I don't know, maybe that's an example of what you're talking about, a belief system that's... One kid at school teases you and maybe you get picked last for flag football and later that night, you're having dreams about aliens coming to take you home because you feel so alien. Yeah. Those are connecting two dots that are very kind of childish to connect, but that's what you do, right?

Chris:
Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing that. I think a lot of people are going to be able to be able to relate to that, maybe not to the level in which you've experienced it, but children, especially boys, can be very cruel and they can make you hate your life and who you are and everything about it. And you're looking for an alternative narrative that makes more sense to you. And as far fetched as it sounds that you were birthed of aliens and maybe adopted by your parents, that that seems like a more likely narrative than the one of your own existence. And you said you spent some time figuring it out for yourself and addressing those issues and I'm happy. It sounds like you have figured that part out, and I know many adults older than you who are still trying to figure it out.

Jeff:
I went to this class with my therapist, he taught a class called Inner Sentence class and he has this process for trying to help you drill down to like, what is that core belief? What lens did you cast when you were eight or 10 years old that the rest of your life you've been looking through to make sense of the world? I did the class twice and it evolved from the first of the second, but the first one is when I went in with probably the most damage to clean up. And my inner sentence was basically, it was something along the lines of being different is okay as long as it's good enough. And so it was something about trying to reconcile the feeling of being different with an anchor and anchoring it to performance.
As long as I perform well enough, that's the one way that it's okay to be different. It's okay to be different as long as I'm better, for lack of a better way to say it. I don't think that was the exact word, but I looked at my life and it's like, I have this drive to just work insanely hard at things. What are the odds that you're going to start playing the piano at 17 and self-teaching, you're going to get a full ride scholarship to play jazz piano at the collegiate level, by the time you're 20. That is possibility, not probability. But I get like a dog with a bone, man. That's the level of intensity that I have.
It's like a form of survival. I literally used to play the piano like if I didn't get good enough, I was going to dissipate into oblivion. And in 2008, I affiliate marketed the same way, 14 hours a day. I was living in my ex-wife's parent's house. We were separating and ultimately heading towards divorce. And I didn't shave for like six months. I sat in a bathrobe and affiliate marketed for 14 hours a day and went from $495,000 in debt. I made $100 my first month, seven months later, I grossed 70 grand in affiliate commissions in like seven months.

Chris:
That's a lot.

Jeff:
That's a lot of money, man, for a broke 29 year old jazz piano player sitting in his ex-wife's parents, spare bedroom with a four-inch beard wearing wool slippers. People throw around that term, do or die, I have this switch that literally feels like I'm going to die if I don't master things.

Chris:
Okay. That explains a lot about your personality and your drive.

Jeff:
By the way, I just got to say, I host a podcast, so it feels incredibly self-indulgent how much I'm talking about myself. I don't know. I just need to say that, I feel a little uneasy like yeah, man, I don't usually... Usually, I ask questions and I don't know. It seems unseemly to talk about yourself this much.

Chris:
Well, not when somebody is asking you the questions. If you were on stage and you were like, okay, I'm just going to talk about me the whole time, maybe that's a different reaction but I'm here to find out about the person behind all that stuff. Because a lot of the concepts you're talking about can be seen on your channel, heard on your podcast and other places, but there's only one place I know that I'm going to get the Jeff Lerner story and that's just to ask you.

Jeff:
Cool, I appreciate it. Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. So a couple of things here, you have this drive and you channel it into something and like most people... Because I was watching the ESPN documentary, The Last Dance with Michael Jordan and you know he's athletically gifted, but then you just see the inner workings of the mind and how competitive, like ultra competitive, almost sick the way he looks at things. He wants to beat everybody at everything. There's a scene where his security team, they're throwing coins at the wall and he's like, "I'm going to bet you, I can beat you." He wants to take money from people; it's not that he wants the money or needs it, it's just, there's a game to play, he's going to win.
And he tells himself a very interesting story. The smallest slight, like somebody saying, "Hey, good job. Congratulations," like, "Oh, you can't talk to me like that. Next game, I'm going to bus you open." And you seem to have that. So when you're talking about affiliate marketing, how does that drive manifest itself into results? And maybe we need to take a step back here just in case. I think I have a pretty modern audience. Why don't we just quickly explain what affiliate marketing is and then you could tell the people how you use that drive and that focus to be able to excel, where most people cannot achieve those results, in my opinion.

Jeff:
Yeah, I will happily. And I just want to say, you totally just called me out and I have no shame around it. I literally think about this one football game, middle school football game, where I'm sitting there and this kid behind me, I don't want to name his name, even though I think about calling him out and ruining his life because my audience is so big and the next day he wakes up with just rotten tomatoes thrown at his house, but he's punching me in the back. And I think about just the day he's going to go, "Holy crap. I should've made friends with that kid. Look what he's done." I'm being real raw with you right now. You're right, man. I think about slights and all the people that tore me down and cut me down and all they try... I do.
It fuels me, man, it does. I love what I'm doing right now because I'm, I don't know, I'm proving them wrong. Maybe that's the right word. But anyway, affiliate marketing. So affiliate marketing is basically a pretty simple structure. You just take the referral arrangement that's as old as business say, oh, send me a customer and I'll pay you a referral commission. And you digitize it and you put it through trackable links and you say, get your audience or someone in your world to click this link to go to this other website and buy a product. Because links are obviously trackable with cookies and URL variables and whatever, they'll send you a commission. That's affiliate marketing in a nutshell.

Chris:
Okay. I think a lot of people understand this and you talk to them in one of your videos, Amazon is one of the world's biggest or the world's biggest affiliate marketer. They don't spend a lot of money on advertising. So they understand that whoever recommends products does reviews or sends them a customer, they give you anywhere between two to 4%, maybe more if you sell a ton, I think your percentages, oddly enough, go up when you sell more. I guess they motivate you. So what is it that you're doing that gets you to 70,000? I make a couple of thousand bucks a month just passively, just referring people to stuff. How does one get from okay success to that kind of success?

Jeff:
I'm glad you asked. So a couple of things, there's a small subset of affiliate products online that are what we call high ticket affiliate products. So they have some sort of a product that can staircase into higher priced offerings, and a lot of these are education-based. So in 2008, I found a company that had these investment education seminars and seminar bundles. So they had really sophisticated wealth education that would teach people like non traditional investing. They would say, "Look, it's 2008, 2009, there's a real estate bubble. You all just saw it. You can't trust the banks. You can't trust your financial advisor. You can't trust your company 401k plan. And we teach you all this stuff that the elite wealthy people do with their money."
And these seminar tickets, they had like these bundles that would range... They had a home study course, it was two grand. And then they had seminar bundles that would go up to like 25,000 and they spent no money on marketing. All of their sales was through affiliates. So you could earn 40% commission on 10 to 25,000, well, two to $25,000 products. And so what I did was I went and found low ticket affiliate products, like lower priced affiliate products, which you can get it at, back then it would be like, gosh, all the way back, early days of ClickBank commission. I think I got some off Commission Junction. There was the Warrior Forum back then, which still is.
There were these places you can go find these networks of offers, $100, $200 offers. And I would create video content, I would create blog content, anything I could to get people to buy these lower ticket offers. And I would always put a phone number on the opt-in form and then I would call them and I would sell them over the phone, the high price stuff. That was my secret. And when you're desperate, you do what you got to do. And they were good products, I went to these conferences and now that I actually have money, I use the financial strategies I learned at these conferences. They were amazing, but I would get on the phone with somebody that bought a $50 course on how to write better email copy.
And I would say, "Hey, so you're trying to be a world-class internet marketer, great. What are you going to do when you're making $500,000 a year? How are you going to manage that money?" And I was like, "Listen, man, begin with the end in mind. If you want to see yourself through to the life that you want, be, do, have. You got to start being the person now that does the things so that you can have the result. You want to have what rich people have, you need to do what they do, which means you need to be how they are. So why don't you go to this seminar and really learn how they are?" That'll be $13,000 and I appreciate your 40%.

Chris:
Okay. So it sounds to me like you took the course, you loved it, you got value from it and you became a believer and you're like, more people need to find out about this. And I'm going to use my skills, my talent, to get somebody across the finish line. You essentially become a sales spokesperson for that company or that product.

Jeff:
And I used affiliate marketing to fill my funnel with phone prospects. And it's still technically affiliate marketing, you talk to them on the phone. It doesn't change the nature of the model, but there's a nuance to it that I'm actually closing deals on the phone.

Chris:
Okay. Makes perfect sense. You talk about this in your video. You talk about this thing, this digital real estate and having digital assets. I've said something similar, I want to hear your take on it.

Jeff:
Yeah. Everybody knows, well, I assume most people realize that the greatest historical creator of wealth has been real estate. The term real estate, real like Camino Real, royal, The Royal Road, real means Royal; the royal estate, the asset of kings is land. And so if you want to build wealth in this world, unless you understand investment banking and securities, you generally do it through real estate. And I just came up with this concept when I looked at the internet marketing and the internet marketing industry, and what I think is generally wrong with it, which is that people are selling gimmicks. They're selling shortcuts. They're selling hacks. They're always trying to package things as like this push button, turn key, quick hit, flash in the pan thing. And then I look at my own career and I'm like, the things that I've done that have really fundamentally shifted my life trajectory are the things that have some staying power.
And I'm like, that's not that different than real estate. The difference is I don't have to have a quarter million dollars to buy a piece of property. I can set up a $12 domain and maybe carve out, once you get good at it, carve out a couple thousand dollar marketing budget and drive traffic to that domain and create a list. And that list becomes an asset that you can make money from for years and years and years. And I don't look at it as that different than a rental property. If you have a list and every morning you have to email your list and it produces an average of $4,000 a month in income by selling affiliate products to your list, sending one 30-minute email a day, how is that really that different than owning one rental property that you drive by every morning for 30 minutes to check on?
And if there's anything, if there's a hole in the roof, you get out, maybe do some of your own repairs, and eventually you could pay a property manager to do that stuff, just like eventually you could pay a copywriter to create the emails for you and system... But it's about having an asset that does two things; to me that the value of real estate isn't just that it generates cashflow. There's a lot of things that generate cashflow. It's that it also is tethered to an underlying asset that it can appreciate and grow equity over time. And so I try to focus on internet business models that have predictability, bankability and ultimately even potentially, sellability, just like a piece of property. That's it in a nutshell.

Chris:
Okay. That makes total sense to me. You're right. In the neighborhood that I live in, there's quite a very affluent neighborhood and almost every single one of them, whenever I hang out with them, "What do you do?" "I'm in real estate?" "What do you do?" That's not what they started doing, but that's what they do now. Many of them were attorneys and doctors and they... There's this concept, it's a trade up. They buy an apartment unit and they rent it for a while and then they get a duplex and then they get a fourplex or whatever you call that. And they keep doing that until a certain point the apartment complex is self-sustaining where they have a live-in building manager and a contractor to service them and it's just throwing off passive income. And that's wonderful. And that's a traditional kind of an idea that's been around for some time.
So when you and I are talking about digital real estate, to me, it's all the benefits of real real estate and none of the downfalls. Because somebody gets hurt, like you said, the roof caves in and you are out hundreds of thousands dollars for pairing it, doing seismic upgrades, if somebody sets... Their place catches on fire, you have all of these kinds of things. So to me, my digital real estate is if you can create something that throws off passive income, that's an asset that you own intellectual property. It could be an ebook. Authors in a way that have a bestselling book, that's their digital real estate. And it keeps selling and it spawns other kinds of products and this is an idea I wholeheartedly embrace. So it sounds to me like you were able to build up a very powerful email list that you were then able to send affiliate marketing deals to. Is that the idea?

Jeff:
Yeah, that's one thing I did. And then several years later, I started a digital agency and I focused on building a subscription business. A lot of digital or creative agencies, they really like project basis or they even like retainer basis. I liked true service contract basis. I wanted to be like the utility company to my client. So I was focusing on like base level SEO, Google map SEO, directory listings, core like reputation management services, things that businesses, they weren't going to... Unless they went out of business, they were never going to convince themselves that their Google map placement didn't matter.
I don't want to do a big creative project for somebody and then go, "Jeff, you did so great. Thanks, man. We'll send you a Christmas card, but we don't want to keep doing our retainer." When I sold my agency in 2018, I had a book of probably 2,500 small businesses paying me a couple hundred bucks a month. That's retainer. That's real estate to me. Maybe it's like a contract for deed where you have the paperwork, there's not a physical thing, but I just think about it in terms of predictable cash flow.

Chris:
Okay, I see now. I think if I'm understanding it correctly now, then it was kind of a directory that professional people could be on that you would generate traffic for them. Is that the kind of list you're talking about or am I still not understanding it?

Jeff:
Are you talking about my agency that I just described?

Chris:
Yeah.

Jeff:
Yeah, no, I was focused on directory, I say directory services, I mean like basically, I would call it local or location-based SEO. Typically, people think of SEO, they think of ranking a website, I was trying to rank a location on a map and the way... Like the plumber, the roofer, the HVAC, the guy that wants to come up in a local search when you're down in your basement and you got water up to your knees and you're like, "I need a plumber." And you go on your phone and you type in plumber, who's going to pop up? It's the plumber that has the most consistency across all of the hundreds of other directories that house business information. And so we integrated with a software vendor that would essentially automate the monitoring of all of those listing databases, which we called directories.

Chris:
I see.

Jeff:
Now that I sold the agency, I don't mind saying what my margins were. We would charge them an average of about 220 to $240 a month. And yet the hard software cost for a hard software, that sounds weird, but the hard cost for us on a technology side was like, we had so much scale, we got it down to like $14 a month. So you're charging somebody 220 and you're paying 14, and you've got to pay people to service and support, but it's still pretty good business. I've always had this obsession with like marginal cashflow. Remember, my dad was a money manager. So even though I was this broke jazz musician, I had context on good business.

Chris:
I was going to say let me see if I can take one more crack at this and see if I understand it because once I understand it, I think everybody that's listening too they will understand it as well. So what you were doing back in the day when you sold that business of yours, was it like SEO optimization to make sure that plumber, that electrician ranked high when somebody is looking for somebody in a local, like within their vicinity?

Jeff:
Yeah. Fundamentally it was, I just didn't use the term SEO because most small businesses out there have had a frustrating experience with an SEO provider over the last 10 years. So I just didn't use that word.

Chris:
Okay, but that makes a lot of sense. Okay, I'm just watching my time here. Now the question I have for you is you started off when you were introducing yourself saying you have this company called ENTRE. What it's called again?

Jeff:
ENTRE. Yeah, like entrepreneur.

Chris:
Okay, and you help entrepreneurs make money. Is that the idea?

Jeff:
Yeah, I try to make a distinction. I teach entrepreneurial-ism not entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a thing I believe you do, entrepreneurial-ism is a way that you are. We're really anchored in core values. We're really anchored in a certain perspective and a belief system that, I don't care if you're an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, you could work at Microsoft and be this term intrapreneur. There's just a way of being in this world that... My real training ground was jazz. I was an improviser. You have a fundamental set of non-negotiable basics; rhythm, harmony, melody, time tradition. And within that, there's a freedom to do whatever you want. As long as you start in a way and bring it home in a way, the middle is your playground. That's one shorthand way of describing what I think being entrepreneurial is, but I know that pragmatically, people are like, "Well, that's all great in theory, but how do I make money?"
So what I do is I give them the three business models that I believe are the most consistent with the principles of digital real estate. And they are affiliate marketing, they are digital agency and they are digital course creation, which not coincidentally, are the three things that I've done in the last 12 years. And I go as deep as people want to go because I've done all three of those at are really high level. I've generated over eight figures at all three of those, which not a lot of, forgive me for using the term guru but if I want to compare myself to the gamut of people that go out talking about this stuff, not a lot of them have done that. They can say, "Listen, give me any online business model. And I've either done it at a really high level or I've discarded it because it wasn't the best." Most people are like a one trick pony. You're going to go sign up with an eComm guy.
And he's going to tell you, "You got to start a Shopify store, man. I made $4 million on Shopify. Shopify is where it's at." And I'm like, Shopify might not be where it's at. Have you checked the lately? There are some challenges in getting goods in from China. I don't know you want to start an Ali express drop shipping business right now. So I've done affiliate marketing at an eight figure level. I've owned an agency at an eight figure level. I've done digital course creation at an eight figure level. I've done eCommerce at a seven figure level. I can talk to talk about all of them and actually steer people, not just to what I think is the best based on environment, but also the best based on personality. And so I have a methodology for helping people self-select into what's going to be the best fit for them.

Chris:
And just so I'm doing the math here, I'm trying to follow along here. Eight figures is in the tens of millions of dollars, not just a million dollar...

Jeff:
Correct, yeah. I've done a little over $50 million in gross sales since I went online in 2008.

Chris:
And I want to circle back to the middle option because I understood the first two, or the first and the third because we had talked quite a bit about affiliate marketing. I'm in the digital course creation business myself so I think if anybody's listening to this, they're following me, they know. What was the middle one again?

Jeff:
Digital agency, like the servicing local businesses.

Chris:
The servicing, okay.

Jeff:
Or servicing any kind. It doesn't have to be a local business, I just chose that niche.

Chris:
What was the digital agency that you had? Was it the directory?

Jeff:
Yeah, it was called [Zerly 00:53:07] and we did Google map optimization. We did websites. I actually built a website generator. So I could build a small business website that was pretty well search optimized in about 20 minutes because we had, what would you call it? A language spinner. So we would say, okay, plumber, Jacksonville, Florida, water heater, septic, toilet. We just put in some keywords and it would automatically generate all the text for the site, and it was unique every time. And we had this big database of 1,000 images that were all relevant to plumbers and it would resize them and reorganize them.
So every site was unique, but it didn't require any manual construction. So we had about 1,500 people on that system. I don't know how many were active. I know I had 2,000 domains in GoDaddy at one point and let's say half of them were active on a website service. I know when I sold the agency, we had 1,400 active directory, we called it citations customers at an average of 220 a month. So yeah, and that was called Zerly and I did that for six years.

Chris:
Okay. All right. I have to wrap up pretty soon. I do want to let people know that if you've enjoyed this conversation, where can they go to find out more about your programs and who you are?

Jeff:
I would just direct them to millionairesecrets.com. Speaking of digital real estate, by the way, that's a great domain. I paid a lot more than $12 for that, but you make those investments once you understand the concepts. If somebody offers you a corner lot in Times Square, you pay what you got to pay, drop a zero or two for internet prices. But anyway, go to millionaire secrets.com/chrisd because then as... It's probably obvious given our conversation, it's an affiliate link so that we know that you came to the site from Chris and then longterm, if you end up buying anything in my ecosystem, I'm going to make sure Chris gets appropriate credit. But I send people to that site because there's a lot of great free stuff. They can subscribe to my YouTube channel. I have hundreds of trainings. They can listen get access to my podcast, which I will have this amazing guest on pretty soon here, Chris.

Chris:
Yes, for our fans, I'm going to be on your show and we're going to talk about some other things. And then it's I guess my turn to be put on the hot seat or something like that.

Jeff:
Yeah, exactly. So just go to Millionaire Secrets and look, if you decide you want to become a digital entrepreneur, obviously I sell stuff but I'd rather people fall in love first.

Chris:
Okay. Since the site is called Millionaire Secrets and before we let you go, what's one secret millionaires kNow?

Jeff:
The long game. And I say that especially with an eye towards the internet, the internet does this massive perversion of people's good sense in their brain because data moves so fast on the internet and information moves so fast on the internet that people think progress should happen so fast on the internet, and they go online to start a business... I had a guy post in my Facebook group today, he's like, "Man, I'm still struggling with ENTRE." Well, first of all, I don't know what that means because ENTRE is not a business, it's training. But also I looked him up, he's been in the program for like 50 days. So yeah, play the long game. The Law of the Farm, Stephen Covey talks about it. If you've got five hours to chop down a tree, spend four hours sharpening your ax. There's a million ways to say it, but the Law of the Farm prevails on the internet. Internet business is still real business.

Chris:
Jeff, thanks for coming on the show.

Jeff:
Hey, it's been a blast, man. I look forward to having you on mine. My name is Jeff Lerner and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already subscribed to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barro for editing and mixing this episode and thank you to Adam Sanborne for our intro music. If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by rating and reviewing our show on Apple Podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes of that much better.
Have a question for Chris or me? Head over to thefutur.com/heychris and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative excellence. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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