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Ben Burns

Mr. Ben Burns is The Futur’s Chief Operating Officer. Get to know to the man behind the mouse. His origin story, how he met Chris, and why firing all of his clients was the best move for both his business and career.

When to fire all your clients
When to fire all your clients

When to fire all your clients

Ep
137
Jun
09
With
Ben Burns
Or Listen On:

How Ben Burns landed his job as COO at The Futur

Mr. Ben Burns is The Futur’s Chief Operating Officer. You might recognize him as the bearded fellow on our YouTube channel.

Though officially our COO, Ben dons several more hats day-to-day. Self-taught designer, web developer, general steward of our company, and father of two.

In this episode, we get to know to the man behind the mouse. His origin story, how he met Chris (and got his attention in the first place), and why firing all of his clients was the best move for both his business and career.

Ben also shares his experience in the military and police force and how it helped shape who he is and—ultimately—why he traded his gun and badge for a mouse and keyboard.

Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by
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Episode Transcript

Ben:
I've always had a bias towards action. And I feel like I learn really, really quickly when I'm acting on things. And so my first gut reaction to pretty much anything is, all right, let's try it. Let's see if it works. I've always had this level of confidence where I know that I'll be able to figure it out.

Greg:
Welcome to The Futur podcast. The show that explores the interesting overlap between design, marketing and business. I'm Greg Gunn. If you followed The Futur for awhile, then you probably already know today's guest. He's our chief financial officer, but I'll bet you don't know how he arrived at our company. And that is what today's episode is all about. In this unique conversation, Chris interviews Mr. Ben Burns, steward of The Futur, core builder of our website and bearded father of two. We'll get to hear Ben's origin story about how he met Chris and why firing all of his clients was the best possible move for his business and career. Ben also talks about his experience in the military and police force and ultimately why he traded his gun and badge for a mouse and keyboard. Please enjoy your conversation with the one and only, Mr. Ben Burns.

Chris:
All right, Ben, it's that time of the year where I think I get into a very contemplated, reflective mood. And I sit there and I'm talking to people in the pro group and online, and it reminds me of that time when you were one of those people I was talking to. I think it's important to highlight to people like, that's the way how Mr. Ben Burns became Mr. Ben Burns and why you're the guy who's running the machine, the man behind the machine and making sure that we're profitable. If you don't mind, if we can just lax nostalgic and take our friends along on a magical ride, is that okay, Ben?

Ben:
That's totally fine.

Chris:
Okay.

Ben:
I for one, I'm a little offended that I'm one of those people. I'm the OG person. I'm like-

Chris:
The prototype? The prodigal son?

Ben:
The beta test. Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough. Here's what we're going to do. I want to rewind the tape. And before I do that actually, I should have you introduce yourself to everybody in case you don't recognize his voice. Introduce yourself, please.

Ben:
Yeah. So I'm the big bearded guy that you see on the channels sometimes. I'm Mr. Ben Burns. What I do here is, at The Futur, I take Chris's vision and try and turn that into a reality. The title is COO, but I do everything from fixing things on the website to launching new initiatives.

Chris:
Beautiful. Okay. Let's take it back. Here's something that people may have pieced together if you're listening to all of our content and can figure out the narrative arc here, but I'm going to take you chronologically back to the beginning. And that's when I get this message from somebody on our channel and I don't know who he is yet. And he reaches out and says to me in DMs, something to the effect of, I've gotten so much value from you, and I'm sure you get hit up with this all the time. Here's the interesting twist. What can I do for you? And I think this is a via Facebook messenger, I think. And I see this message and it caught me off guard. It stopped me in my tracks. So if you're talking about how to write an effective message hook, he did it.
And so then I reached out to Ben, I'm like, "I'm not sure what you can do for me." Then I'm curious, I want to know more about you. What can I do for you? So I answer your question with a question. Of course, before I send that message and check you out, you kind of look like Matt Damon and people have jokingly called you fat Damon. He looks like in the departed or something. And he's got this kind of military officer look, and then we'll get into that story later. But what happens then is we started to talk. And the first time I think I talked to you was via Facebook messenger with video and audio.
And I'm sitting in my wife's office and I'm doing this call from home. She's to my left. She's got her computer and I'm to her right. She's always suspicious. Her whole thing is like, "Why are you talking to that person?" I say, "Honey, my instincts. My instincts. Just let me go with this one." She's like, "This could be some psycho killer guy. You just don't even know." And you could have been, obviously you're not.

Ben:
Very well. Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. So we're talking. And so now I want to turn over to you now that I've set the stage. What was it like in that moment? If you can take us back in your mindset where you reach out to me, I reach out back to you and then moments later, you and I are having a conversation. What's that like for you at that point in time?

Ben:
Yeah, I was blown away. I think that when I sent that message, really one of the things I put in the message was like, "Hey, listen, I'm getting so much value out of you. Please don't stop." And so really the point was just to reaffirm that you were making an impact on somebody. The only thing that I expected was just some more content on YouTube. I never expected you to reply and I definitely never expected a phone call. And so I was sitting there and I was just blown away that this dude from LA, this Emmy Award winning designer was reaching out to me. Lolo me, sitting in Richmond, Virginia, and actually caring and being concerned about what I had going on. I was just starstruck. Just blown away.

Chris:
Okay. I can't remember actually the nature of the call. Maybe it's really not that important, but I find a little bit about you and this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I want to jump around the story arc here a little bit. I would often, during those days, be commuting from office to home. And if I had a window of time, I would call you randomly. And at first it might've felt like, oh my God, he's calling me. But really the way that I worked back then was I had two or three people on my speed dial and I would call each person. It was just my way of just trying to check in on my people and make sure everybody's good if they need anything in that short eight to 15 minute drive. And without fail, almost at any given time, I would call you, within two or three rings, you're on the phone. Sometimes it was you fumbling around like, oh, because you had a baby at that point.

Ben:
Oh, yeah.

Chris:
Right.

Ben:
The first initial days, my wife was pregnant. And so the phone would ring, I would see like CH, and I wouldn't even read the rest of the name. It was like, boom, I exploded off the couch or out of the bed or out of my desk chair, wherever I was, and I would basically run outside. Because I was so excited to talk, that I literally had to pace, and there wasn't enough room in my loft apartment to do the level of pacing that I needed to do. And so I would go outside, and it didn't matter. Obviously being on the East Coast then, there was a time difference. Sometimes you'd call at 11, 12, whatever, man, I'd wake up and take the call.

Chris:
Yeah. That sounds about right. Because usually I would head home around 8:00 PM, sometimes a little bit later. What I wanted to say to people is like, you took the lion share of my time back then, because no matter what, you would just answer the call. So if I'm going somewhere, I'm a big believer in trying to maximize my time. I don't want to lose my commute times. So I'm going to call somebody and help them, and there you were.
And it takes me to this point in time, and this is the critical point in our relationship in that I'm driving home in my little mini Cooper and we're having this conversation. And after hearing about some of your challenges, I had said something to you, which I thought was going to be the end of our conversation, and perhaps even our relationship. I said, "Ben, I'd love to help you, but I can't. It's for the fact that you have no time." In this period in time, you were working with lots of clients, I believe, but you were working yourself to the bone. Talk to us about like where you are in the story arc here in terms of like your life and your business.

Ben:
Yeah. We had just moved from Savannah, Georgia, to Richmond, Virginia. And the purpose behind making the move was just to be available to a whole new group of people. It felt like a fresh start. Carrying the business with us between those two places, I was kind of freaked out about losing money and losing clients. And so I just hung on to every single job that came through the door, which in those days it was all brokered through oDesk or Upwork. I forget what it's called back then, but it was one of those marketplaces where anybody could find and shop for work.
So at that point, I was doing work for clients, kind of in the branding and digital space, $30, $40, $50 logos, brochures, just kind of those one-off small jobs. And I was just stringing enough projects together to make ends meet. At that point I think the total was like 53 clients. Had 53 clients, and each one of them had different projects. Who knows? Maybe I was working on 80 projects at one time. But it was eight hour days with a pregnant wife and a little tiny apartment in a new city. I was crunched for time.

Chris:
Yeah. Eight hour days? Wait a minute, you're working-

Ben:
Excuse me, 18 hour days.

Chris:
Okay. You forgot so quickly,  Ben, 18 hour days just doing this. And I felt something inside of in the dialogue in your voice in that there was a sense of exhaustion, a strain in the relationship, knowing very well like I got a little one on the way and I was concerned for you, concerned for your health. I was concerned for your relationship, thinking that nobody needs or wants to have an absentee husband who's grinding away, doing the best they can, but you're not getting ahead. And you and I in that call, I asked you to do the math. So if you're working whatever, 18 times, however many days a week you worked and how much money you were making back then, it quickly dawned on me and you at the same time that you were earning less than minimum wage.

Ben:
Yeah. I think the figure came out to $3 an hour.

Chris:
So Ben was busy just running his life and his business, but never taking a moment to step back and looking at the numbers, thinking this is all I can do. Just spinning a thousand plates at the same time. So that's when I knew like, shoot, I want to help, but there's no time to help. So here's the part where I say to Ben, "I can't help you. You have no free time. And unless you get rid of all of your clients and make time, this is not going to work." And I said to Ben, "I would rather have you work at Starbucks part-time, full-time, so that you're not exhausting all of your creative energy and you'll be making more money than minimum wage." So you're upside down in all of this stuff. And so when I said that to you, how did you hear it? How did you feel?

Ben:
Well, the first kind of emotional reaction was panic. To understand my frame of mind going into this, I really wanted to understand how to onboard more clients and how to do more work at the same time. And so when you asked me to fire my clients, and when you told me that this is the requirement for moving forward with these kinds of conversations, the first thing was panic, because it betrayed the operating system that I had going into this. It felt overwhelming. But then I took a couple of breaths and I was just like, I've committed to saying yes to this dude, to just trusting him. And so then I just set those feelings aside, put the head down and said, "Yes master, let's move on. I'm in your dojo now."

Chris:
Yeah. And I want to point out something that's quite remarkable about Ben and the reason why he and I get along so well. And why he's had the kind of growth that he's had is that, when he tells you, it was a couple of breaths. It was literally a couple of breaths because I thought, this is the end of our conversation. Because to tell the guy, I need you to drop all your clients. And I'd rather have you work at Starbucks than to pursue this path. And think about the momentum that's going into this. And if you just wash your hands a little bit, you think, I need to finish washing my hands. And it's very hard to stop. And think then, a couple of years of doing this and having the emotional obligation and a commitment to 53 clients, it's not easy to walk away from.
So a couple of short breasts, and then this is what he says. He says to me, "What do I do next? How do I fire them?" And that caught me off guard, because I've had these kinds of conversations before, not to this degree, not this extreme, but you're an extreme case here, but people don't act that quickly. They don't turn on no way to there's a way. And it was kind of like that. Now all of a sudden it felt a sense of responsibility. All of a sudden I'm like, whoa, it's obvious logically what's going to happen. And so Ben asked me, "So I'm going to fire my clients?" And so then I tell Ben, "Here's how you have to fire them. There's a way to do this." And he's like, "Okay, tell me." And we ran through it, I think twice. And you say to me, "I think I got it."
And essentially what I said to you, more or less was, to call up every client to thank them for their business. To be approaching this from a point of gratitude, and to say that you can no longer do this work. And now moving forward, you need to charge this amount. And we anchor at a higher number, but since you've been so loyal, I'm willing to give you a discount on the new fees. More or less, that was the structure of the conversation. And so this goes out of my mind. I get on my car. That's the end of Ben Burns. I go into my house, I eat and do a couple of things, whatever.
And then I don't know the very next time we have a conversation, I would have forgot this whole thing, and when I saw that you called me and my phone was ringing and I could see Ben Burns, I panicked. It was my turn to panic. I was like, "Oh my God!" It just woke me up out of whatever state I was in like, "Oh my God, the kid did it." I don't know if this is horrible news. What is going on? And all the thoughts like, Chris, they all fired me. I'm in a ditch. My wife has left me. I'm crying and now I want to do. A thousand things could have happened. Thankfully, that's not what happened. So, what'd you say to me, when you called?

Ben:
You picked up the phone and I'm pretty sure I just said, "All right, I did it. What's next?"

Chris:
No, that's not what happened. We'll have to edit this.

Ben:
I think it was what happened. I was like, all right-

Chris:
I remember it differently, and I'm going to tell the story differently then.

Ben:
Yeah. Go for it.

Chris:
Here's what happened. So I pick up the phone, Ben and I are talking and he goes, "Chris, I did it." Long pause. And I'm waiting for the needle to drop or the shoe to drop, and this horrible thing is going to happen. But he didn't say that. He said, "Three of the clients decided to move forward with me."

Ben:
Oh, that's right. At the new rate. Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. At the new rate. And I was like, "And?" You were happy. You were like, "With these three clients, I'm going to make more money than I did with all 53 clients combined at the old rate."

Ben:
Yeah. Because it kind of wrapped into that. What you told me to ask for was like, okay, you're on hourly rates. So we need to get a commitment for every single month. And so you told me to pursue an hourly retainer with these clients, to make sure that I was going to make a minimum of X amount of dollars a month. And those three had committed not only to the better, newer, bigger rates, but also to a set amount of hours every single month. And that stability, that like, just being able to predict the revenue like that, even if they bailed after a couple of months, was a level of stability that I hadn't had in over a year. And so it was just like this weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. So I remember just feeling just ecstatic at that moment.

Chris:
Yeah. And I was just purely relieved that you weren't in a ditch as a single man, abandoned your wife and child and all the world is falling apart. There's a couple of things, I want to stay in this moment, to highlight a couple of things. You and I, we can laugh about it now, but in the moment it must have been frightening, so much uncertainty, so much risk. And in my mind it's like somebody else is taking this risk, but then now I have some responsibility here. Like once I become attached to your arc, your story, bad things happened to you, I have to take accountability for that.
So the thing I want to talk about is this, is that, I am the same person that I am to almost every single person that I meet. I give almost exactly the same advice. If you watch enough of our episodes, or listen to enough of our podcasts, it's almost the same framework. The nuance and the delivery is a little bit different, but you'll notice that there are a handful, just a handful of people where I transmit this message out into the world, where it actually fundamentally changes their lives. And I always think to myself like, I need more of the Ben Burns magic in people, because I'm the same person.
So what is it about you, where you can hear an idea that fundamentally challenges like everything you were thinking a moment in time, to reflect, to stop, to bury the emotional response, and then actually just put on your game face and just go into the field and do as you're advised to do? What is it about you?

Ben:
Man, I don't know. I've always had a bias towards action. And I feel like I learn really, really quickly when I'm acting on things. And so my first gut reaction to pretty much anything is, all right, let's try it. Let's see if it works. Because we can only talk things to death so many times. And so I think that that bias for action kind of carried with me. But also it's, I don't know, at that point, I didn't, number one, had much to lose because I could always go back to Upwork and find more jobs, but I've always had this level of confidence where I know that I'll be able to figure it out. I've even considered tattooing on my arm, you'll figure it out. So when I get good advice like that, it's like I have that bias towards action, but then I also know that I'll be able to recover and figure things out.

Chris:
Your plan B will save you, in case it doesn't work out.

Ben:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. Well, you said a couple of things I need to delve into, which is, when I hear good advice, I think I always give good advice. And hearing a piece of advice like this through different sets of ears of like, that's stupid. That's insane. You're telling me that for however long I've been working on this, the 53 clients I worked so hard to keep happy, you're telling me to say, go take a long walk off a short bridge. What is it in your brain that says, this advice is good for you to fire those people to make room for new clients?

Ben:
I think looking at the source, honestly. I mean, this is something that you've done before and you've obviously been wildly successful with blind. I just look at that track record and I'm like, "Okay, he's got the answer." I trust your experience. I think that's really where it's founded.

Chris:
I think you and I are very similar in this regard, that we choose our masters well. And once we choose them through whatever vetting process we have, then we just kind of, for the most part, blindly follow them in good faith to say, for as long as I can, I'm going to do everything you say. And we also have that same confidence that if it doesn't work out, we're not that much worse than where we were before. And it's easy enough for us to rebuilt. Now, whether that's a conceit that's built on a house of cards or not, we'll never know, thankfully, because we never go back, right?

Ben:
Yeah.

Chris:
You thought to yourself, I can always go back to oDesk or Upwork and rebuild the crappy clients I had.

Ben:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. So this then says to me, our story has to begin somewhere else. That the Ben Burns I'm talking to at this point, was already formed somewhere in his past. So I'd like to go to your past. Let's just talk a little bit about your childhood and your upbringing. I know you have siblings. Where are you in the birth order and what was it like growing up in a Burns' household that might've shaped this kind of thinking?

Ben:
Yes. I'm the first born of three boys and we grew up in Michigan. Both my parents, they stayed together through my childhood, so that's good. But yeah, we were just kind of like rough and tumble kids. We beat on each other and had a bunch of fun playing out in the woods and doing karate moves that we saw on TV. I think that the one thing that really shaped me or imprinted me is my relationship with my dad. So in those early years it was pretty rough. He held me to an extraordinarily high standard. I think that that really put this ... I don't know. Even though he put me through a ton of stuff, I always trusted that he knew the right answer. And so I was like, okay, if you say this, I'm going to go do that.

Chris:
I'll tell you, growing up, I'm the middle child, three boys. So there's some similarities, they are not firstborn. Some gaps between age creates a complex dynamic between my brothers and I, but growing up, I fell into the trap of many middle children, which is, they ignored one. My older brother, four years older, he was smarter, stronger, bigger, faster everything. In Asian culture is that the oldest male is the chosen one. Birthright. Heir to the king. My younger brother, who's a year younger than me, he was the baby and he was handled for the most part with kid gloves. And so I was just disappearing between the two. My dad had his way of thinking about family structure in that, blood is thicker than water. And that's your bond and it's your obligation to take care of your siblings.
And so he always thought that I neglected my younger brother and that I wasn't a good older brother. We got into a lot of emotional challenges where I was blamed for lots of things that to this day, I'm like, that wasn't fair. It wasn't right. It tarnished my relationship, my perspective for my dad. I always thought that he was bias and prejudice against me. And that for some time I felt like I was not worthy of being loved, and it hurt. I would be blamed for stuff that my younger brother got into trouble and just blame me and he'd even investigate. And so I was being punished. Not also exactly a great relationship.
My dad, to this day, never hit me one time, but everything shorter that, I would be kneeling in the corner on like hardwood floors. I would be just, face the corner. Sit there for an hour. And that's it. Just kneel there on the hard surfaces. And then I'm going to lecture you for another hour and tell you how you screw it up. And so there was this one point in my life, and multiple points actually, where I wanted to run away from home. I wasn't brave enough or strong enough and didn't have the resources, but I remember one time after a disagreement, I grabbed myself and left the house. I didn't go very far. I just sat mostly on the front porch and just sat there thinking like, where do I go from here? I'm thankful that my dad was hard on me, but growing up, I could not see that. I could not appreciate it. And only in reflection, can I see how he disciplined me in a way that made me the focus person I am today.

Ben:
I remember something that stands out to me and you kind of connected the dots really well with your childhood. And that isn't really something that I've done yet. But something that stood out is like, I was always expected to set the mold for my brothers and figure things out, so I could set a really good example. And what that meant is that there was really no example set forward for me. And so I was constantly just trying things and guessing and trying to figure out if I was doing the right thing. When it wasn't a rule set in stone, I had to figure it out for myself. That might lead into this whole bias towards action, I guess.

Chris:
Well, you're an explorer. I know this from going to a family therapist, that the advantage of the younger siblings is we get to see what works, what doesn't work, where the boundaries are and how to exploit the boundaries. It's like, nobody told you, but you couldn't cross that line in the street. For one reason, this is fine, on this side of the street, but when you go beyond that, you're going to get your butt whooped. And it's never that clear, until you cross it and then hell rains down on upon your face. And that's what happened. As a middle child, I could see that like, oh, if my brother did this and got in trouble, like, okay, I'm not going to do that.
And just for survival instincts, it's like, I know how to navigate this. And that's why for many years after entering into adulthood, I was a people pleaser. That was the imprint that I had, which was, learn how to navigate and deal with people. And make sure that they're happy. And so you subjugate what you want. And that's why on top of all the other things I got going for me, Asian culture, middle child, I was trying my best to avoid confrontation, almost at all costs. And it's something I still work on to this day. So there you are exploring it. And so you're always the person that's like, I didn't know we couldn't do this. I'm going to do it. And then sometimes it works and sometimes you get whooped, right?

Ben:
Yeah. Yeah. But I think I shared that, avoiding confrontation with you because that was my motivation for the exploring. I didn't have the example, but the only thing I wanted to do is make sure my dad wasn't pissed off. And so that avoidance of confrontation, that's been something that I still struggle with.

Chris:
Very interesting. Because my older brother is very different than you. You've met him before. And he's the person who from my perspective is almost causing aggravation to my father because he's the guy who's like, "Well, who says it can't be done this way. I'm going to do it this way and why should I care?" And they've had their back and forth, in terms of respect. There's a lot of customs that you're supposed to follow and he didn't follow many of those customs. This is kind of interesting. Maybe it's a creative thing more than it is a birth order, but I'm sure there's some complexities in here.

Ben:
Yeah. I mean, when I became a teenager, obviously things kind of flipped and I was kind of bucking the system, dying my hair blue and doing the whole punk rock thing. I don't think that that really stuck in my mentality. I think that was more of like a rebellious phase that came and went. I caused some aggravation in my day, but it wasn't like it was internal. I always kind of felt bad for it.

Chris:
Let's jump forward here. I know this about you, and I automatically assumed that this was the case, that it was your background in the military first and then in law enforcement that was the staging of this person who is prime to aid, do what they're told and to just really trust process, because both in the military and law enforcement, you have to trust it, otherwise it all comes apart. Okay. Tell me about why you got into the military and what did that do for you?

Ben:
So it's funny that my creative career started in college. So I was interning at this place, is an agency called Post No Bills in Columbia, South Carolina. And started out as an intern, worked my way up to a full-time graphic designer and then got promoted to a senior graphic designer. Honestly this is where I learned my craft because I didn't go to school for design. I really studied under a creative director who took me under her wing and taught me everything that I knew then about design. It was right in the middle of like 2008, I was watching ... What's that show with Jack Bauer? 24.

Chris:
24.

Ben:
Oh yeah. And I was like 20 years old. And I was like, I wonder if I could do that. And so it was kind of all this curious point in the back of my mind, if I could go and be some tactical dude. Then 2008 hit, and we started seeing the impacts of the economic crisis at Post No Bills. And it was time for me to find a new job anyways. And so I started looking. There's really nothing out there. And I was like, "You know what? Let me just go for it."
And I went ahead and applied for a whole bunch of different law enforcement agencies. I found a home in Savannah, went to the academy, graduated, hit the street, spent about six months on the street. And then I wanted more. I loved the training. I loved the team atmosphere. I love the comradery. It's something that you kind of get in training, but you don't really get on the street because pretty much everybody is got their own beat. In those days, we weren't riding with other officers in the car. It was a solo job.
So I just wanted more of that and joined the National Guard. And so I did two things at once. I was a full-time police officer and a part-time military police officer in the South Carolina National Guard. That's what led me there. I loved the training on both. I spent six months in what they call basic and AIT, advanced individual training. And I spent them in the same bunk with the same drill sergeants. And for six months, had the crap beaten out of me. And I just loved every second. In those days is like, when you're in that training environment, you are expected to follow orders and not have that emotional reaction and not evaluate these orders. You're supposed to trust it implicitly. And they kind of break you down so that you pretty much do this mindlessly. So I think that aspect that was either reinforced or rooted in those training days.

Chris:
So it's that philosophy or that belief that you got to break somebody down before you can rebuild them. And it's just like Full Metal Jacket where there's a Sergeant with a hat yelling at you telling you you're maggot and do a thousand pushups and climb that rope wall. Is it like that?

Ben:
I mean, kind of. It's much softer. But you still have the drill sergeants. They still yell in your face. They're not allowed to touch you. They can't smack you around or anything like that. It's definitely still intense. I did lots of pushups and paid a lot of physical price for things in those training days. But yeah, it's hard and humiliating and really fun.

Chris:
Okay. So you got training. It seems like you were lured in by the training and what you got was you were physically fit and you learned a lot about discipline, right?

Ben:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:
Okay. So why didn't you stay in the military then, or the National Guard? What happened there? Why did that stop? Or is it supposed to stop?

Ben:
No. So the first thing that happened was after I got out of training and hit the streets, I was jacked. I was full of that 22 year old testosterone. And so when I hit the streets, it was hard. My mission really was to find drugs and guns. We saw a lot of violent crime in Savannah. At one point we had a higher murder rate per capita than New York City. And I saw this tragedy happening and it was all rooted in the drug game. And so I became really passionate about rooting it out and trying to interrupt that and save lives. So that aggressive approach and making the arrest that I did on the street, got me promoted really quickly. It got me promoted to the point where I was a narcotic agent.
Eventually I wound up in a wiretap room with the DEA and we were running pretty large scale investigations on large drug dealers. In those days, I was also renovating a house. People in America probably are familiar with police officers don't make a lot of money. And so I was looking for any way that I could make some extra cash. Because I was sitting in a wire room, I had all this kind of free time because basically when you're on a wiretap, you have to wait for the phone to ring, so that you could listen and record or take action. And so there'd be these long stretches. Sometimes we would go entire shifts without hearing the phone ring, and you'd just be responsible for sitting in this room. My buddies will be watching movies or working out or whatever.
I chose to try and find some clients online to do some graphic design work. And so that's really where my business started was trying to make some extra cash to buy drywall for a house that we were renovating. It grew from there. At the same time though, I was five years into this career and I started noticing some trends. When you were a police officer, you can't escape the job without something breaking. Either your mind breaks. I've had several friends commit suicide that were on the job. Your marriage breaks. The divorce rate in the police world is extreme. Or your body breaks. Either you get shot or hurt. Carrying around 30, 40 pounds of gear all the time just kind of takes its toll.
And so I saw this pattern and I realized that the next step up was really to get promoted as Sergeant. And then I would be back on the street, working long shifts, with Mondays and Tuesdays off. And this pattern would be my trajectory, and I really just didn't want that. And so it was kind of this like, wonderful, I don't know what you would call it, serendipitous turn of events that my freelance job was making more money at that point than my day job. And so I decided to make the jump to full-time.

Chris:
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back with more from Ben. Welcome back to our conversation with Ben Burns. So you were a narcotics officer doing the wire thing, busing people, and you shared a story with me about how you were busing to a room and you weren't sure what was behind the door. And it turns out to be a little different than what you expected. Set that up, and tell that story, because I think it says a lot about your character.

Ben:
Yeah. We were serving a warrant for, it was a search warrant for a methamphetamine case. And in rural Georgia, meth was running rampant. And the people who dealt meth were pretty serious dudes. Lots of weapons and all this kind of stuff. The cool thing about our team was we were serving our own warrants, which meant we were the ones that we kicked down the door. We were the ones that would secure the house. And then we were the ones that would search for evidence. So while we were kicking down the door and clearing the house and making it secure to the search, we came across an interior door that was locked. And so I had two or three people behind me, and we were stacked up on the door, which means we were like lined up.

Chris:
Guns out?

Ben:
Guns out. Yep. Ready to go. I was the point man at that point, which for me, I was kind of new. And so I was nervous and I was just like, ready to go. And so I decided to put my shoulder through the door. Well, not really what you're supposed to do. See, you're supposed to kick the door open for the next guy who would run through. And the reason being is, if you put your shoulder through the door, there's all sorts of different things that could happen, and that's what I found out. So I reared back-

Chris:
Wait, wait, wait, hold on. I need you to drop this story here. You're already serving a search warrant. You break through the first door and you're into this house and it's some meth lab, whatever drugs. And I'm just sitting here thinking, okay, are you wearing body armor? Are you using one of Bulletproof shield? What's going on here? Because you're exposing yourself. Because you don't know where anybody is, and nobody is going to treat anybody that breaks into their home kindly. Tell me about the protective gear and the mindset, before you break this door down.

Ben:
Yeah. Were dressed to the nines. I mean, we had bulletproof vests on with ceramic plates. I forget what level of protection, but protected against assault rifles. Same kind of things that soldiers wear when they get deployed and then bulletproof helmets. Most of us had either a rifle or a shotgun or at least a pistol and elbow pads, knee pads, boots. We were about as tactical and tacticool as you can get.

Chris:
It sounds pretty cool.

Ben:
It's heavy, that's what it is. It's not like Call of Duty. There's no heartbeat sensors, so you don't know who else is in the house with you.

Chris:
Right. Okay. So you got this. What kind of a weapon have you drawn out there?

Ben:
I think I was just carrying my Glock 21.

Chris:
You take your Glock out. And you got a couple of dudes behind you. And like you said, it makes sense that the person who breaks it, isn't the person who clears the room because you're off balance. There's all kinds of weird things going on. And you could be looking down the barrel of a shotgun if you are tumbling into the room. So you're getting ready to break through and then what happens?

Ben:
Yeah. I've kind of rear back and I see like my sergeants he's mostly-

Chris:
Wait, wait, Ben, Ben, you got to tell the story without literally going back.

Ben:
Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I'll stay close to the mic. All right. So I rear back and as I'm moving backwards, I see my Sergeant who's done this for 20 years. He's experienced with this. He's like motioning to me. I'm like, "No, I got this chief," in that split second, I sent my shoulder through the door. Well, turns out it was like one of those hollow doors. So you can picture me 280 pounds plus 50 pounds of gear, I shot through that thing faster than anybody could even dream of, wound up falling on my ass rolling through the bedroom and wound up looking at the ceiling. And eventually my Sergeant come up, he's cracking up, after they secure the room. He's cracking up and he's looking down at me, he's like, "You should have kicked it, man."

Chris:
"I wasn't telling you to stop, I was telling you, use your foot." And you're like, "I got this."

Ben:
I kicked that door off the hinges, man. Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. Okay. You guys may have a hard time visualizing this. I think when Ben says he was 280, he's probably being a little shy here about telling you how much he weighs. You've got 50 pounds of gear on. How tall are you?

Ben:
I'm six foot.

Chris:
He's six foot, 280, with gear on, 300 plus pounds. He's like a pit bull with a Glock in his hand. He goes through the door and the door must have exploded into a thousand pieces, as you can imagine. Because he doesn't know. You got to hit this hard, otherwise it's not going to happen. And then you go tumbling through space. I can only imagine if I was behind you, I'd be scared and laughing at the same time. So if someone else is in that room and they drew weapons, I would probably miss that shot, because I was going to have like a laughing fit. Very dangerous situation.

Ben:
I'm lucky that my gun didn't go off, man.

Chris:
And shot yourself in the leg. That would be perfect. That ended well. Okay. A couple of things here, and I don't want to make too much of this, but try to imagine in your life, when somebody challenges you to make a social media post or to call up a prospect or to ask an existing client for a referral. And all the fear and anxiety that you have, the acid reflux and the ulcers, and you stop. And then try to graph that onto Ben story where his life could've ended that day. Real mortal danger that he would be leaving behind a wife at that point, right?

Ben:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep.

Chris:
If he could not survive and walk out. And literally, metaphorically, he put all his weight behind this and he pushed through and he stepped through and crossed that threshold as fast upside down, but he did it. And that tells you a little bit about the insight into, maybe, for some people, one way that you succeed, that you don't have to have an abundance of talent, skill, knowledge, training. You don't have to have a silver spoon. You don't have to have the perfect childhood, but if you push through and just temporarily suspend your fear, you too could end up ass up on the floor with your whole squad laughing at you. But there's even a better part to this story, Ben, because it turns out this drug person, this drug dealer, had the whole place under surveillance.

Ben:
Yes.

Chris:
Tell us about that.

Ben:
Yeah, they seized all the footage. He probably had 18 cameras up in this place. So the footage of me exploding through a hollow core interior door and rolling into this guy's bedroom is out there somewhere.

Chris:
So you go back to the office and I imagine boys being boys, they're looping this thing. And if the internet was a big deal back then, this would be like an internet meme of Ben flying through space. And you're lucky that you did this in the time that you did it, because it would be forever, right?

Ben:
Yeah. I'm so happy that this thing wasn't streamed onto a cloud server or anything like that.

Chris:
Up on YouTube back then. What precinct or what squad was this again?

Ben:
So this was the Chatham County Counter Narcotics Team.

Chris:
And this is in 2008, '9? Little bit later.

Ben:
This was like probably a little bit later. 2011.

Chris:
2011.

Ben:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. So if you served in this unit, please.

Ben:
If you have this footage somewhere, call after you delete it.

Chris:
Yes. Please reach out to us because I think it'll make for a fabulous clip. We can do justice to this moment, knowing that everybody walked away from this and everybody is safe that we're going to have a good laugh at Ben's expense, of course. So please send it to us. Okay. All right. Let's continue on here. Okay. You had said something which I don't want to gloss over that you knew from seeing your brothers in arms, that this story doesn't end well for most people. People get injured. They lose their life. Their relationships get torn apart or they just mentally break and go into a state of depression and some lead to suicide.
I have to imagine that the toll it takes on you in terms of seeing the depravity of people and where they'll go. Like I watch films, and when we see like a mother treating her own children or a father taking out somebody in their family and just treating them like animals or worse than an animal, it's heartbreaking. And these are like works of fiction, and to see it in real life, I can't fathom the mental scarring that this would take. Luckily in these many hours that you had free, you spent it productively building your career as a designer. Returning back to what you studied in school, right?

Ben:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep.

Chris:
Okay. When did you make this break from law enforcement and becoming a full-time designer?

Ben:
I think this was like 2013, somewhere around there, made the jump. We were still in Savannah. At that point I think I was pulling in maybe $1,800 a month, doing all these little jobs here and there for oDesk clients. That's pretty much all it took to make the jump. My wife was working full time and we were kind of wrapping up this renovation on this bungalow that we bought in Savannah. The timing was really choice. It was perfect. I was making just enough to get by.

Chris:
Yeah. By all accounts, you didn't grow up in the heart of the entertainment capital. You didn't grow up amongst people who are all designers and that's the language they spoke. You kind of pieced together whatever you could from your media studies or program and image designer. And how did you know, because without context, how does somebody know that there's more to be had out there that you could level up your skill, you can level up your presentations, you can level up your pricing and your clients. How did you know?

Ben:
It's a good question. I think I just saw other agencies. In those days, I would probably spend about 5% of my time just haunting other agencies' websites. And I would see the big teams that they had and the quality of work that they were doing, and I could recognize the gap. I could see it. The gap in my work between those. But I also had a lot of disbelief. I just couldn't believe that there were clients out there that were paying 10 grand or 50 grand or a hundred grand for basically with the same service. Even though I knew that I had like a vast improvement to make in my skill level, there was always this disbelief. I was like, I just couldn't believe that clients were willing to pay what it would take to keep these guys employed. But yeah, I think that really just looking out there to see other people's work and to see other agencies, that helped me identify those gaps.

Chris:
Yeah. So there's a couple of things here. One is you could see the presentation quality gap and the level of clients. That becomes apparent. I mean, almost anybody can see that if you're paying attention. Here's the kind of clients I work with. They're mom and pops and it's like local businesses. And then there's these other ones that are working with national, international brands. And we could see the extent in which the design applications take them. They're designing wraps for buildings and cars and complete systems. Okay, we get that. When you say that you couldn't believe that people would pay them this much, they're not advertising this on their website. How do you even know that there's a gap between the $18,000 a month that you're making versus however much they're paying those people? How do you know this?

Ben:
I remember finding this company called Grain & Mortar in, I think they're in Milwaukee. And I just loved their website. Loved their portfolio. And what I noticed is that they had maybe 10 pieces in their portfolio. And in those days I kind of believed that everything that an agency would do, would go in their portfolio. Like it was a one for one. And so I looked at it, I was like, okay, so 10 projects, they've been open for two years. They have to have charged a bunch of money to employ 20 people. Like, oh my God, the math just doesn't work out here. How is this even possible? How can they work with so few clients and still make ends meet, enough to pay these guys who are driving nice cars and all that kind of stuff. There was some thought behind that. I was trying to analyze it as best as I could from the outside.

Chris:
Is there more to the internal dialogue than just, I can't believe this?

Ben:
I just wondered how I could be worth more, or if there was something that was missing, whether that's a skill that I was providing, or maybe it was just like a way of doing business so that I could do more work. I just wondered if like I was missing something in this. Like I was missing a puzzle piece to solving this.

Chris:
It sounds to me like you did the mental math, where they do 10 projects a year or whatever, and they have 20 people. And if I'm doing the math reverse engineering, it doesn't add up. So you knew you didn't have the answer, but you knew there was a problem, because there was some kind of cognitive dissonance there. So where did that take you?

Ben:
I went to Google. I mean, that's how I renovated my house. I literally would look up how to hang drywall. And so in this case I was looking up things like, how to find more clients? How to design logos quicker? Or, logo design process? Or, developing custom themes for WordPress and then analyzing people's process and looking for fast ways to approach that. But yeah, I just went online and did some crazy searches all the time. Yeah. And I think that that's how I wound up finding a video with you and Jose back in the early days.

Chris:
I see. You were trying to look for a model that you can take apart, reverse engineer hack, and then apply to yourself, right?

Ben:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:
Okay. We probably could spend multiple hour long episodes, but where's the next inflection point for you in your timeline where you start to have some breakthroughs? Take me there.

Ben:
Honestly, it was finding The School. In those days, The Futur was called The School. And finding the videos that you and Jose were doing because you were actually breaking down processes. And that's really what I was looking for. I was looking for ways to approach projects the same, because I was doing it differently between every single client. I would let the client run the entire job. And obviously that wasted time. It wasn't efficient. It resulted in work that the client didn't really want, because I kind of took that order taker mentality from the military and applied it to client work.
I didn't follow any of the advice that we now give in The Futur. And I was just giving the clients exactly what they wanted all of the time without question. And so finding The School was really huge for me because that was the first time that I had been exposed to someone online or otherwise, that was willing to let me in behind the curtain to see how the sausage is made. And that gave me confidence on one hand, because I basically ripped everything you guys said in those early days and applied it directly. But it also showed me that I had a lot to learn. It was kind of a weird mix.

Chris:
Do you remember when one of these things clicked for you where ... And I'm trying to not turn this into a commercial, it's not meant to be, I just wanted to hear your story and relate to you and help people understand like the people behind The Futur, because you're an instrumental part of this. If you look at this story, you're watching these videos from some strangers who are saying, "This is how we do it." I know you had some disbelief before like, eh, it's not all adding up, at least from these other companies you are looking at. And then you say, okay, that was cool. That was what I was looking for. And then you ate that. You apply in your life. Take me to any point in time where you applied something that you were like, I'm not sure if this works. It feels like it's going to work. And you do it and you actually get results.

Ben:
Well, in those days, what I would do is the job would come in from the platform, oDesk or Upwork, and immediately I would send them a questionnaire and they would fill it out. It was creative, brief questionnaire. It was very short. I think it was like four or five questions. And then without talking with them, without interfacing at all, other than a couple of emails, I would get to work and I would immediately start designing, let's say logos. I would present probably 10 logo options, and then they would pick one or they would say, "Oh, we don't like any of these. You missed the mark. Let's go back to the drawing board. Here's some other ideas that we were thinking." And then we would start that process all over again. And so in some cases, I was making my clients 20, 30, 40 logos, before they settled on one.
And you guys had put out, I think in those days you were talking a lot about core and the discovery process, but in between those things, you started mentioning stylescapes. And I was like, "What the heck are stylescapes?" And so I would literally freeze frame on videos and try and figure out what these things were. And I realized that they were kind of mood boards. And so I was like, I wonder if I could take this mood board and not design logos right off the bat. I wonder if I could use the mood boards to understand what the client wants better, so I could save time. Because I was all about saving time in those days and doing jobs quicker, so I could do more jobs.
And so that's what I started really investing more time into understanding what the client actually wanted through that stylescapes process. And then eventually you guys actually made videos about stylescapes and I ate those up and refine the process even further. I can remember that was like a huge light bulb moment because that would probably save me 10, 20 hours on a job before we even got to the designing process.

Chris:
I think you're validating a lot of the things that we think we're doing right. And then to hear you say that and to hear people like you say it, it's very reaffirming. That most of us aren't taught professional practices in a realistic business environment. We're taught techniques and skill and craft, and those are all very good foundational layers. But once you enter into the real world and you're dealing with actual clients, how to win the work, how to talk to clients about the work, how to extract from them what they want in words and images, before you go and pour your heart and soul into something. And so you're starting to see the difference in terms of it's saving you time or perhaps maybe elevating yourself in the eyes of the client, right?

Ben:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep.

Chris:
Okay. All right. That's really cool. So I guess in a way, Ben, it's become very clear to me now, why you create the kinds of products you create. I think just we can't escape who we are, so you are creating for a younger Ben. Who's looking for systems and process, and tell me the nuts and bolts, and I'll figure out how to apply it on my own. And you've been very successful at creating products for your people, your tribe. And to contrast that, I went to a private art school. Spent a ton of money to get my education and learn from some of the best professors and really refined my craft. I just happened to be in a place where there was high demand for this kind of work. So I had to learn really fast how to compete, how to bid, how to win high-level jobs.
And so then therefore I create products and courses to help people who are in my position, where you have really strong design skills, the craft part you got, it's the business part that you're missing. How to value your work, how to price it, how to talk to clients, how not to feel ashamed about talking about money and to do in a way that's congruent with who you are as a creative human being. And so it's neat to see this that we're attacking this education problem from two ends of the spectrum, if you will.

Ben:
Two sides. Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. So the self-starter, the pull yourself up by your bootstraps and figure it out as you go, sort of fearless, but all you need is a little help, a little guidance, a little evidence at something like this works, and then you'll figure out the rest. I think that's really cool. And I think it makes a nice compliment, like we're two bookends to many volumes of like a bestseller, if you will. Okay. Now I realize we're coming up on time here. There's probably a couple more things I want to talk about, but is there something else here that you think might be worthwhile to mention?

Ben:
All right. I think it was like the second or third time that we talked. Probably the time after I told you that I fired all of my clients, except for three, that you were like, okay, so the next step, you're going to have work that anyone can do. And so you need to find someone to do that work. I'm pretty sure you were just like, "I know it's tough for you to see right now, but you have to hire someone to help you because you need to focus on growing the business and not doing that low level work." That was huge for me. And that was another moment of panic and disbelief and feeling overwhelmed. Yeah, I'm curious to see what your side of that is though. Do you even remember that?

Chris:
I remember everything, Ben, actually.

Ben:
Everything.

Chris:
Yeah, I do. No, of course, when I say that, through a distorted lens of how I want to remember it obviously, but what we're talking about here is delegation. And that you have this very precious thing that no person is given more of really, which is time. That from the richest person to the poorest person, we have units of time. It's perishable. It's non-renewable. And what I wanted to get your mindset into was an entrepreneurial mindset, which is your task is to do the work that only Ben Burns can do. Not to put different assignments of value to it, but anything that somebody else could do, you are better off as an entrepreneur to delegate that work to that person so that you can free up more of your time to do the only things that you can do. Somebody's like, "What is that?"
Well, onboarding clients, writing proposals, at that point, mapping out the tone and the voice of your brand, at that point, Burn Creative, and figuring out what the next strategic decisions are for you to go to next level up. You can't do that if your hands are in the work. So when we say like, are you working on your business or in your business, most people are stuck at that solopreneur operator level. And that's totally fine if that's what you want, but if you want to start to explore, adding people who have different skillsets than you, who can compliment your thinking, your ideas, your knowledge, your technical proficiency, and deficiencies, you're going to have to start thinking like a person who wants to hire people to help them.
And so from my point of view it was just like, Ben, you do realize this, if you can pay somebody else less money than what you're charging for it, by holding onto that work, you're essentially costing your company the difference between what you would pay somebody and what the clients are paying you. And that is a whole different mindset. And it's something that I learned also from my business coach.

Ben:
My mentality and response to that was like, I would never be able to afford this. The affordability was like, I'm looking at my baseline. There's no room. I'm barely making ends meet right now. I had no idea, but you were like, "Ben, totally get it. Try." So you said, "Put it out there. Put the hook out there, see what fish bite." And so that's what I did. I put an ad out on Craigslist for a design intern and I was overwhelmed with the amount of responses that I got because I listed right there, I could only pay minimum wage. And I think in that day it was like $10 an hour or something like that. I think I got like one or 200 applicants, and it took an amazing amount of time to go through them and look at their portfolios and pick out the few that I wanted to interview.
Getting that many responses from the ad was such a boost in my confidence because I was like, okay, so maybe this is possible. Maybe I can afford this. And then going into the interviews, I'm sure that the first few people that I interviewed in my basement coffee shop in Richmond, it was the most awkward thing in the world. So if you're listening, I'm sorry. But I realized that all anybody wanted was the experience of working with clients. And that's something that I had, unbelievably, that I could give to them.
I interviewed this one guy. He walked in with a big magnificent beard, and so, instant respect there. Sat down. He had the best portfolio that I looked at. Had graduated from a great design school. And I asked him, I think the first question is like, "Brian, what on earth are you even doing here? Your portfolio is fantastic. This seems beneath you. Why are you applying for this job?" And he held up his hand, and when he held up his hand, I noticed that he was missing two fingers. He was like, well, I have a story for you.
So apparently he was working in a completely different job. He was recycling reclaimed lumber. Worker's conditions weren't great. And he was in the middle of planing a piece of barn wood and his hand got caught in the machine and it took two of his fingers. And he says, honestly, right now I'm waiting on my settlement to come through. It's already decided. And all I want is to work in the industry. I just need to break back in, because it's been a couple of years since I graduated and I just need to get back in. And I realized that the opportunity that I had, fit the opportunity that he needed. I hired him right there on the spot. And since then, he's grown as a designer. It was amazing to me that I was able to find this quality, even if I didn't have much budget to hire people.

Chris:
Yeah. I want to point out something to everybody that's listening to this, where you are now and where you want to be, there's obviously a gap. And sometimes that gap feels like it's so deep and so wide that you can never traverse it. And the way that you get there is you just take your goal and you chunk them down into smaller and smaller bite size pieces until it becomes manageable to kind of do almost like the minimum viable, effective step, or something like that. So to say, Ben, you're going to hire a designer who may be better trained than you, and probably be paid more than you pay yourself, that's a scary idea. The next best version of that is to get either a volunteer, an assistant or an intern to work for you, where you can ease yourself into the idea of having somebody report to you on a daily basis.
And what we have to do is we have to get rid of all our assumptions about what other people want. And this is a classic mistake in negotiations is to assume the other person thinks just like you. And has the same values just like you. And it has the same worldview just like you. We know, just even between you and me, we have a lot of similarities, but we also have a lot of differences between us. Now, all you can do is you can show up and you can be clear and you could be genuine and transparent to say, "I can only pay this. This is what I'm looking for." And to be honest with yourself and say, "I want to hire the best, most qualified person, even if that scares me, because they're probably better than me." And you put that out there and then it's up to that person to respond.
Almost always when this story happens, more people show up that are higher quality and more qualified than you think, show up because people need work. People need opportunity, and they haven't been able to figure out the other part, which is, how do I get clients? And I actually don't want to talk to clients, I'd rather just do the work. And so then it's a marriage where both people are better because of the union. You have somebody that you can really lean on. Somebody you can afford, who frees up your time. And they have somebody who's going to go out there and shake the trees and beat the bush, so to speak, and pound the pavement, and to generate opportunities. And to have somebody like, "Hey, this is pretty cool. It's great that you're doing that. I'll do the work. And you tell me if this is right or wrong for the client." And it works out really well.
Okay. I got to ask you this question. The question is, years ago, you looked at that design firm, Grain & Mortar. You were looking at it through the lens of disbelief because a person like you doesn't get to do things like that. Now looking back on your life and being exposed to the things you've been exposed to, how do you feel about that observation from then to now? What differences are you seeing? And then lastly, how would you advise your younger firm version of what you should do to get to the place where you're at now?

Ben:
Man, honestly, I would just reassure my younger self that anything is possible. And the advice part is, really, you just have to keep pushing. You have to keep putting yourself out there. You have to keep moving and trying and doing things that are uncomfortable and scary. Because if you look through life with this specific lens, everything kind of looks like luck, until you actually look at the effort and the preparation that goes in behind it. I would have never been able to hire Brian if I hadn't put that scary ad out. I would have never established a relationship with you, Chris, if I hadn't sent that message. And so my biggest advice is just to keep pushing and trying everything because it's all possible. You can go from Savannah, Georgia, wielding a gun and badge to working on incredible projects in Los Angeles with a mouse and keyboard.

Chris:
So, there are many versions of seeing the same idea, and I'll say it a couple of different ways, is until you can accept that this is a possible outcome and reality for you, regardless of what your pursuits are, whether you want to win a beauty pageant, whether you want to work with a famous company, brand, celebrity, whatever, until you realize that you are worth a certain amount of money, it will not materialize. You must be able to dream it first. You must be able to believe it in order for you to achieve it. And that's very much the message that we send out there because for every Ben Burns, there's other Ben Burns who still is stuck in that mindset and that belief that these things are not possible. Something is up. The game is rigged or whatever it is you want to say to that.
And then you manifest that reality into existence. Meaning, you don't believe it's possible. So, guess what? You're right. It warms my heart when people message you, me, just to say thank you. To affirm that they were able to change their life and the results that they get are shocking. I met a young man in Geneva and he had messaged me because he knew I was going to be at an event speaking. He said, "Chris, I need to see you, because I have something for you." And so when I see him, he's in his twenties and he hands me a bag and I looked through it and he's like, "It's all the best chocolates from Switzerland." I'm like, "Great, thank you very much for this." And it's heavy.
And he proceeds to tell me, he's like, just a year before, he had earned $10,000 and was having a hard time making ends meet. And just within one year of listening to the content and applying it, this is the critical part, applying it, he had grossed a hundred thousand dollars. And when he told me this and he said, "Thank you." My reaction was, "Let me give you a hug." I hugged him because, I said, "You're proof that the things that we say work. You got to believe it. And then you have to apply it. There'll be some setbacks and challenges, but if you stick to it, you can achieve that."
I remember one last thing I wanted to share with you. I think you and I had this discussion, but if we didn't, we'll edit this out of the recording. I remember telling you that in your world, the world that you see and the real things that you know you can reach out and touch, people are working at a certain level, earning a certain amount of income. So it becomes your reality.
The Jim Rohn thing is, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So if you hang around with a bunch of designers who earning 30 or $40,000 a year, working on small mom and pop companies, that becomes your reality. I said my reality is, by luck, by circumstance, by fate, is I happen to live in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, where on every other block could be a tech millionaire, billionaire, real estate developer, or something, and they're all over the place. So my reality is, and I remember saying this to you, Ben, I do not believe that money is a finite resource. It's like air and water. When you start to accept that, and you can understand what that really means, not just that surface level of statement, you can make as much money as you want.

Ben:
Yeah, that was huge.

Chris:
So Ben Burns, thank you very much for sharing some of your story with us today. And I wanted to make sure that there was one place where somebody could listen to it and not have to piece together all the components. I thank you for this. I'm sure that we'll have a couple of more sessions together where we can dive into some of the other transformative things in you coming to the company, finding your place with us, struggling a little bit in the beginning, and then finding your legs. Maybe that'll be for another time.

Ben:
Absolutely. Thanks man. I had fun.

Chris:
Thank you.

Ben:
My name is Ben Burns, and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe 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 Futur episodes 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 business. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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