About this episode

I’d like you to meet Sean Cannell, founder of Think Media. Sean Cannell is a best selling author, YouTuber, and speaker centered on helping entrepreneurs and creatives build their influence with online video. Sean’s YouTube channels have over one million subscribers, his videos have been viewed over 43 million times and he has been featured as one of the “20 Must Watch YouTube Channels That Will Change Your Business” by Forbes.

The Think Media team is on a mission to help 10,000 people create a living, doing what they love to do, utilizing online video. That is what I love about Sean’s story, is that it is grounded in helping others achieve something more for themselves.

In this episode, we take a deep dive into how Sean made it out of a rough season with a new vision for what he could have in this life. While most of us might not be able to directly connect with a journey that includes a myriad of drugs or multi-day bingers, we can definitely relate to the idea of hopelessness or the absence of vision or direction. Even more importantly, we should be able to relate to the idea of being surrounded by people who help when we need it most. Entrepreneurship is not a solo journey. Sean unpacks elements of his story that, he will admit himself, have never been told before. This is Sean Cannell’s startup story.

In this episode, you’ll hear

  • His early childhood, not seeing himself as becoming an entrepreneur, and his upbringing by two fathers; his biological father John (a creative) and later, by his stepfather
  • About his rough teen years, being expelled from high school, getting into hard drugs; Sean shares his story of hitting rock bottom (which he has never shared anywhere before) and how this led to the most transformational time in his life
  • Enrolling in Bible College and how by getting his faith in order it sparked his vision for a future beyond the fleetingness of pursuing pleasure
  • His struggle with imposter syndrome (while in Bible College) and feelings of undeserving of his opportunity; and later how being immersed in the church community changed everything
  • How an invitation by his youth pastor to start shooting videos for the church was the beginning of his career as a video creator
  • Going from intern to working within the church and leveling up his skills and entrepreneurial aspirations
  • The story of how he got into creating videos specifically for YouTube and YouTubers, which includes known YouTuber Benji Travis
  • How and why he made a shift to move to Vegas to take a position as a Communications Director for a church and what happened next
  • Some encouragement from Sean to capitalize on the part of your journey you are currently in, whether that season is as an employee and delivering for that employer and figuring out, what are the things that are going to work for your future state
  • Moving away from his Director of Communications position at the church and moving forward towards his early path to creating Think Media
  • In October of 2015, Sean lost 90% of income due to clients ending contracts; and while he was very worried about making ends meet, a mentor urged him on, “It seems to me that you just got kicked off the cliff and now it's time to fly.”
  • Building Think Media and where the company is today

“At some point, as an entrepreneur, you have to jump off the cliff and go all-in.” – Sean Cannell, Think Media

Resources from this episode

Creedon: Legal partners you want as you build your business and brand. Listeners get a 30-minute brand consultation + $200 discount on a trademark application. Visit http://creedonpllc.com/startupstory

Brex: The credit card specifically for startups. Visit http://www.brex.com.
Listeners, use code StartupStory and get fees waived for life!

Think Media on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGxjDWAN1KwrkXYVi8CXtjQ
Sean Cannell on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/seancannell/

The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory/

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Contact him today at https://emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory

Special Guest: Sean Cannell.

Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Sean Cannell

Sean Cannell: Hi this is Sean Cannell, founder of Think Media, and this is MY startup story.

Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

James McKinney: I hope 2020 has started off with some tremendous momentum for you. I also hope that our collaboration with Brex, the corporate card for startups, helps ease some of the cash flow issues all of us startups have to deal with. So if you're looking for a cash flow solution for your startup, make sure to listen to the entire episode for a special offer from our partners at Brex. It could absolutely be a game changer for you.

Another challenge you might be trying to overcome this year is marketing and awareness. Well, would you like to advertise on our show for free? If so, then just make sure you plug your business when you leave a written review on Apple Podcast. If you leave a written review, I'll read it in an episode and if you plug your brand, URL, or even your Instagram account you will basically be receiving a free ad in an episode that will last for a very, very long time. It's just my way of saying thank you for leaving that written review.

Now don't get me wrong, I love seeing a new five star rating appear in our show listing on Apple Podcast, but the written reviews have a significant impact as it relates to being discovered within the new Apple Podcast platform. Climbing the charts on Apple Podcast is not just about listeners, but it's about engagement. Listening is one way Apple measures engagement, but written reviews have a multiplying effect. So please leave those written reviews. And lastly, before we jump into this week's episode, I want to say thank you to the team at Fuse Dynamic Workspace for allowing me to use their podcast studio to record this episode. If you ever find yourself in the Dallas, Texas area make sure to visit workatfuse.com. Now, let's jump into this week's episode.

Our guest this week is Sean Cannell, founder of Think Media. Sean Cannell is a bestselling author, YouTuber and speaker centered on helping entrepreneurs and creatives build their influence with online media. Sean's YouTube channels have over 1 million subscribers. His videos have been viewed over 43 million times and he's been featured as one of the 20 must watch YouTube channels that will change your business, and this was by Forbes Magazine who said that. In fact, I've been watching Sean's camera equipment videos for quite a few years now. The stats I just read are incredibly impressive, but what is really impressive is that Sean and the Think Media team are on a mission to help 10,000 create a living doing what they love to do, utilizing online video. And that's what I love about Sean's story is that it's grounded in helping others achieve something more for themselves.

What you will hear in Sean's startup story is that his desire to help others is fully grounded in the fact that he is where he is today because people poured into him to help get him to where he is. See, if you had tried to assess what his future held for him when he was 19 or 20, you would have never pointed to anything that resembled success. His early years were incredibly rough, and in this episode we take a deep dive into how he made it through that season with a new vision of what his life could really be like. While most of us might not be able to connect directly with a journey that includes a myriad of drugs or multi day bingers, we can definitely relate to the idea of hopelessness or the absence of vision or direction. And even more importantly, we should be able to relate to the idea of being surrounded by people to help when we need it most. Entrepreneurship is not a solo journey. I'm incredibly excited for you to hear Sean's startup story because there's so much authenticity in this episode, because Sean unpacks elements of his story that, and he'll admit it himself, have never been told before.

Sean Cannell: When I think about the beginnings of me as an entrepreneur, at first I don't think I saw myself as an entrepreneur, nor was that really called out to me by my parents. But I someday want to write maybe a book, and I don't know if I'll really write this but everybody's heard of the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. For me, when I was growing up, I kind of had two dads as well. My parents got divorced at three so I had a stepdad at six, and my first dad who I love, John Cannell, he was a creative. He kind of was an entrepreneur, but he was also the definition of kind of starving artist. Really good at being an artist, but not good at necessarily generating revenue which an entrepreneur needs to do, in business for profit. So from that side of things, that's where I of course, I'm now a video creator and there's so many creative aspects of what I've done. I was a director of communications at a church so I was kind of over the creativity of music and video and different things. I got that really from his side, but you could say that I also had a gap of weakness. I didn't have that practicality, business wherewithal.

So then later on, when my mom married my stepdad Phil Escaline, he actually is an entrepreneur, runs a company called Integrative Contractor Services and does electrical contracting for companies like Facebook and Google. Throughout the years, has been kind of in the IBM different kind of clients like that, and his business has always kind of had ups and downs but he's always had this relentless pursuit and is now crushing it. So I was learning from him on this side of being really seeing a business owner, seeing someone bootstrap. My mom was doing the finances. So absolutely, that's very entrepreneurial and that was, they weren't really speaking that into me, but I was picking up some of those nuances.

So the book I thought I should write some day is actually called Creative Dad, Hardass Dad because I learned all this creativity, but what I see especially among even Gen Z and Millenials is sometimes there's a lot of dreaming, there's a lot of aspiration, but there's a lack of that work ethic, practicality, business building. On the flip side, you do need that, you know my dad was west coast - my real dad - chill, so it was kind of like chill out Phil sometimes. You have this worth ethic, that hustle, but it shaped me into being kind of someone who had both. And by being raised on either side, that was definitely a foundation of kind of my DNA of being able to be, if you will, a successful creative, an artist that also has a business practicality to everything that I do.

James McKinney: That's incredible. And because you had both perspectives, I have to ask the question and I find this an interesting question for those who were raised by entrepreneurs, growing up you saw to use your words the starving artist side and you saw the ups and downs of your step-dad in the electrical contracting work. So when you're entering your high school years, were you deterred from the idea of running your own business because you saw the ups and downs on the starving artist side, or was it attractive to you in some way?

Sean Cannell: I don't' think actually either was attractive, and for whatever reason I don't know if I would even point to both my dad's in this case, but throughout high school I generally didn't have a lot of vision. Even going into being 19 years old, I don't know if I had much vision and that probably had to do with, for a while there I got just… the one thing I wanted to be because this was the phase of Eminem, the golden era of Eminem, my vision was like I think I want to be a white rapper. That was my vision for life. I was kind of just not… I was doing okay in school, but it wasn't really anything. I never found really my way in athletics.

I was really struggling, and then I kind of got in with the wrong crowd, started partying, doing drugs. I eventually got expelled actually from a Christian high school right before I went into my senior year, and I just continued to party even harder. Finished out high school at community college and got a certificate. Barely graduated high school because I got a certificate diploma through Washington state. That's kind of what led to actually my most transformational period, which was taking a year to go to bible college, not really because I wanted to but because I actually just had some level of okay, this kind of partying hard and just living for the moment is not really leading anywhere. I don't know where I want to go in my future, but it was really an encounter with God and getting my faith in order that actually sparked vision for a future beyond what would maybe just be the fleetingness of just pursuing pleasure and living for the moment.

James McKinney: I have to ask, because that is based on the story you just shared about living that rough life, that partying life, getting kicked out of a Christian school which is usually when you get kicked out of a public school, the Christian school is where you end up. You got kicked out of this Christian school because of your lifestyle. You flipped the script where now it's like I'm going to go to a year of bible college. What was that moment where you said I have got to wake up from what it is I'm doing and find something? Because you didn't have the vision you said. What was that moment?

Sean Cannell: I mean, if you want to get into the story, I've certainly never shared this anywhere. But there actually was a moment and it was the fact that I started to get into hard drugs, and by hard drugs we're talking ecstasy and doing shrooms and things together like that, so you call it hippie flipping. You also do some of these drugs back to back, it's terrible because you've already depleted your serotonin. So there was this one night where we kind of I'd back to back partied super hard and we were going to go to this rave in Seattle. So what we did is we went there, and I remember this night I took multiple ecstasy pills, which at this point they're always cut with something. We're in deep right now. So they're just kind of speed by that point, so it kept me up all night, and our whole crew kept up all night.

A friend of mine who is the dealer, he actually got lost in Seattle. He took like a ton of stuff, started wandering the streets of Seattle. He was our ride. I woke up… didn't even wake up. We were up all night, just partying. But as you wake up and now you can think. I'm out of energy, I've been partying days straight, I'm just a mess. My body, my nerves, just totally fried and the sun is coming up. This could be a time of immense depression because you're like really what am I doing in my life? But it got worse. So now we're like where's our friend, we can't find him, and so we end up in some car with strangers we don't know.

We drive to Edmunds, Washington and we go to a house of people we've never met, and it's another party starting. We're actually in a house with some people that are pretty hard. Like gang bangers, people got guns, people start doing cocaine. It's actually, I'm laughing now and it's absolutely terrible, but it's one of those moments where this is the transformative moment. I'm with my girlfriend at the time and we're at this party, and I'm looking around and I think at some point, I may have made a wrong decision or two to lead to the fact that it is 7:30 am on like a Thursday, and the party is just getting started while I'm coming down. So we left the house, we started walking. I start like crying, my girlfriend's crying, and I'm saying stuff like I have messed up, I have made some wrong decisions, what have I done in my life, what's going on.

To make matters worse, I had to double at my job that day, work two back to back shifts at Red Robin. I'd essentially been up like three days straight, and so I took more drugs simply to level out, to finish that day of work. Then I went home that night, crashed, and that sent me into a multi day depression which I'm thankful for, because what it was it was just like okay, I'm reevaluating everything. In a way, biblically like the prodigal son, I had seen the far reaches of what it means to push something to the extreme and what it left me with. It left me just with my heart empty. It left me physically drained. It was leading nowhere, and it was actually in those following days that it was my step dads idea. My mom and some of her siblings had gone to this tiny bible school in this tiny town in Alberta, Canada called Three Hills Alberta, an hour and a half out of Calgary.

My mom comes, on the back porch sweeping or something. I don't want to do anything. I'm like I don't have vision for my future, I want to party. I don't want to hang out with my friends. This seems toxic. I don't know what to do. Joy had just been pulled out of everything. She goes, "What would you think about going to Prairie Bible Institute?" and even wanting to go to college, I wanted to go to party. I wanted to go to hook up with chicks. And so she goes, "Would you want to go to Prairie Bible Institute?" and I go, "Yes. Get me out of here."

James McKinney: Oh man.

Sean Cannell: I need to just go do something else. What was so powerful, this is a 3,000 person tiny town, 2,000 is the school. Snowing all the time. It was a chance to disconnect, a chance to really get around. And I got around some actually, for the first time I felt too, some Christians who were full of grace, who were just full of love, who were living in a very vibrant community where they were just for each other and encourage. The fact that I was accepted coming in, just kind of hard, cynical, bitter, mean, sarcastic, the kind of personality I'd developed from the life I'd been living for the last two years and my heart began to soften. I began to study the bible for myself. Because I'd been going to church kind of my whole life because my parents told me to, and I really had this authentic encounter with God for myself, and that's what changed everything.

James McKinney: Oh man, this is unbelievable. And I know right now that I have listeners that are going to resonate with this flip. To me, what this flip is, for all the entrepreneurs and want-repreneurs listening right now, that your life was on a set path and then reaches an absolute low. A lot of times, people will take that low and that becomes their identity for many years to come. You flipped that and said this is not my identity, and you went forward.

But I have to ask a question, because I think there's something relevant for everyone listening. As you went from the hard side of life into this bible college, I think about the listeners that are working a 9 to 5, or have had multiple entrepreneurial endeavors that have failed and they go into this next chapter of their life. There's this idea of imposter syndrome. When you made that change and were in that bible college, was there any part of your narrative, any part of your mental space like I don't belong here, this is not… I was just tweaked out in Seattle a week or two ago and I'm here now. Was there anything that was trying to distract you from the movement forward you were making? Because I believe that is relevant to everybody listening.

Sean Cannell: Absolutely. I did not feel like I deserved to be there. I thought about the person who I was, how I had treated women, how I had treated myself, how I had been living my life, and being around people who were in my mind as saintly as you could get in the world. I was like these people are the sweetest, warmest. And I think that's also something that's powerful. I guess the powerful flip is I had that imposter syndrome. I did not feel like I deserved to be there, and what I'm thankful for was the fact though that I wasn't encountering hard people that were hyper judgmental.

I think one of the biggest weaknesses of Christianity, the brand of Christianity, and a lot of local churches whether this is what is intended to happen or not, is we are actually known for what we're against more than what we're for. We're not known for our love as Christians. We're known as some of the most judgmental, and what could almost be like fundamentalist type of people out there, where that's not what I encountered. I encountered people who authentically loved Jesus, but who were with almost seemingly unending grace, even when I was mean and still cynical. When you're kind of hurt or wounded, even if that's self inflicted, you push people away. Sometimes the reason you're being mean and sarcastic is because you're just guarding yourself because of the own prison you've created for yourself. But there were just… this community around me up there that really just wore me down with love and acceptance, and that kind of changed everything.

So even though I felt like an imposter, they continually were reminding me you aren't. Even though I felt like I didn't belong there, they continually reminded me that you are accepted which I think is one of the most beautiful pictures of the gospel, and someone who is truly representing Jesus. It was this idea that you can belong before you believe. You can hang out with us and be a part of this community even if your theology is still messed up. I'm there, I don't even have theology. I'm not following God yet. I don't really know Jesus yet, but yet I'm allowed to be immersed in that is community.

It changed everything for me, and it really was the turning point that has led me to where I am today. Because for an entrepreneur, the inner game is everything. If you get bigger on the outside than you are on the inside, you're guaranteed to fall. Eventually, your business will destroy, your marriage will destroy, your own will be destroyed. You'll crumble because there's so much pressure and stress to building anything of significance. So I was just so thankful that it was at this phase that it was my inner game that was getting worked out. It was my identity that was being formed. And it was also a spark of true purpose and true motivation, and true literally my heart being set on fire and it still burning today.

James McKinney: Look, as a startup we know that legal concerns are necessary but oftentimes we table their importance because attorneys can be a challenge to work with and be so friggin' expensive, especially when it comes to IP work. All of us know that it's important to protect our brand. I mean, past guests we've had on the show even shared about some of their challenges as it relates to brand protection because they didn't prioritize it when they were getting started. In some cases, that misstep cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Just one more announcement from one of our sponsor partners. At the top of the show I talked about a game changer with a partner called Brex. When it comes to funding, it's really hard for us startups and the goal of The Startup Story is to unpack the real and raw journey of our founder guests because running a startup is different than anything else out there. For that reason, traditional banking and credit funding does not always work for us. Well, Brex is a startup credit card designed from the ground up for startup founders like you and I. Unlike traditional corporate credit cards, Brex does not require founders to secure their credit account. No credit inquiry is even required for founders. In fact, the credit limit is based solely on the stability and funding of your startup.

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James McKinney: In this chapter, as you were working on yourself, you're breaking away from the hard life you were living before, what did you start thinking you wanted for your life?

Sean Cannell: The first thing for me was I just started wanting to honor God. I just wanted to, and therefore I was just kind of looking into, I thought someday now I do have a dream that I'll have a family. Someday now… because I didn't even have that dream. I just wanted to like party hard. Someday now I want to be a good husband, I want to have a wife some day. It wasn't even the main pursuit, although at bible college that's what everybody is thinking. Ring by spring or your money back.

James McKinney: Ring by spring.

Sean Cannell: Yeah, you're like who is it? Who is she? So I definitely started for the first time get a picture for feeling like I was maybe called to ministry. This was only one year at Prairie Bible Institute. I was doing a certificate in bible, and my plan was to go back for a second year. So when I travelled back to Arlington, Washington, what I wanted to do over the summer, and I still didn't have a ton of vision but I was coming back with more wisdom. The wisdom I had was I said okay, number one I'm going to be coming back to Prairie so let me do summer classes because I wanted to stay busy. Number two, I'm going to work a lot, save money, and I was waiting tables at Red Robin so I was going to agree to that. And number three, let me intern at a church.

Now, my parents had shifted churches. Before they were at kind of like a seeker friendly style of church that was… and they actually shifted to like a charismatic church which is a whole other can of worms. But they had shifted. Sight unseen, I didn't know what that meant, I didn't know anything about the church, but I said I want to intern. I just want to intern because I want to be busy. And what I had learned was actually, just like King David what it says in scripture was that he should have been at war but he was wandering on the balcony, and then he stopped at Sheba bathing naked, and it triggered a whole thing of events. I thought look, I'm not that self disciplined. Yeah, I've got good ambitions now, but I know if I get in the right situation…

I remember even halfway through bible college I came back on a break and I went and hung out with a bunch of friends, and we were standing in a circle and they're passing around something to smoke, and I'm like, "No thanks," the first time, and the second time, "No, I'm good." The third time, boom, okay, just pass that. Because it was that environment. I didn't have strength to be in environments, so I wanted to get busy. And I also, I had such deep love for my friends but I knew that I wasn't the leader or the influencer so I wanted to be able to say, when they said, "Hey, come out this weekend," like, "Sorry, I've got responsibilities at church," or, "I've got work," or, "I've got classes to do." I just wanted to fill my schedule so I wouldn't get in trouble.

What ended up happening is it was actually that internship which was the next major shift in my life because that's when I got into video. This is now 2002, 2003 and I come back just for that summer. The youth pastor says, "Hey, start shooting videos for Wednesday night. We have a person who's willing to volunteer." I didn't know anything about… I had a little bit of background in I had used Adobe Audition in the high school radio program, and so I had a little bit of skills. Handed me Adobe Premiere, a video camera, and I started making videos which changed the trajectory of my life as well. But in answer to your question, it was now here in this new church, in that is new internship that I got around teaching and guest speakers, and events. It was people who thought different. There's all different styles of Christianity, but people who really thought big. People who thought let's impact the world. People who also thought that ministry was not the only path. We had business conferences. We had a conference called Prosperity with a Purpose, and we would bring in there would be people who were Christian businessmen with big contractor companies, or authors and speakers. And that was when entrepreneurship went to 10X for me.

I basically discovered two major things over those next couple of years. One was besides spiritual development, I discovered personal growth. It sounds… it almost gets a bad rap, the personal development industry, but I discovered no, like reading books, changing your mindset, audios, conferences, old Jim Roan stuff like turn your car into a college where you're learning as you drive. Turn off the music and turn on the leadership training. John Maxwell, Zig Zigler. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't all of the TD Jakes, all of these different people, Kingdom business people like Dr. Dave Martin and these different leaders that began to shape my thinking. So it was discovering personal development and then also discovering entrepreneurship.

It was the pastor, even though I'm serving in ministry, that recommended in 2009, pastor's wife, "Hey, you shoot video now. Why don't you start shooting wedding videos? You're already getting people to ask you to do that." I was like, "Yeah, I can maybe start a business." And she said, "There's this site called prosper.com. it kind of crowd funds business loans." I got a business loan for around $8,000 so I could buy a camera and buy a computer, and start a business. So it was now kind of the synergy of having my inner game dialed in, of having worked on that is skill of video for a few years that I'd just been self taught learning in church, and then yes, it was like activating what I'd learned from my family, and my two dads, and that creativity that also brought it forward to now being an entrepreneur presently. In 2009 I started a company called Clear Vision Media, and started serving small businesses with video. So yeah, it was that whole season forged everything that I am today.

James McKinney: Oh my goodness. That is an amazing story, amazing transition, amazing flip to understanding the value in personal growth and the value of self talk as well. As you're now building your business, which Clear Vision Media, again that is not where we stand today. So we're now on the cusp of Think Media. I'm assuming Clear Vision was the early days of Think Media. So you get that propser.com crowd funded loan to get equipment. What were those first six to 12 months of Clear Vision where now, is that your only hustle at this time? You're no longer on staff at that church or interning. I know there's some compensation I'm sure, but you are 100% in Clear Vision, is that the case?

Sean Cannell: Yeah. So by 2009 and 2010, there was two things I was doing. I thought okay, if this business doesn't take off I can pay the loan down with Red Robin wages and waiting tables. So what I was doing was I was working at Red Robin and then working on my own business. Eventually, I got down to I'd only work Saturdays at Red Robin for a little bit of extra money, and a couple critical things happened.

I had some different client work. That first year was absolutely brutal. Just trying to figure, I didn't charge enough. I didn't realize how many revisions there was going to be. I was figuring out contracts. I didn't realize I'd be working. I traded my 9 to 5 for 5 to 9 and was just working like crazy. But I also, it was at that time that in our small town, Marysville, Washington I was at the YMCA and I met the coauthor of the book YouTube Secrets, which is our bestselling book today, Benji Travis. So now almost 10 years ago, I ran into him and he was into YouTube with his wife, and I'm doing video production. So one day, he found that out and he said, "I'm going to propose to my girlfriend."

Now they've got a couple kids and they're way down the road. They weren't even married yet and he said, "Can you come help film it?" I said, "Well, I live 15 minutes away." So he gave me $50 to film it. I just drive over, and that sort of started a project where they hired me with a little bit of performance based compensation on how YouTube videos did. I did some YouTube strategy for them and I did video production for them. That became kind of shifted me into working more for that style of client if you will, like YouTube influencers. That didn't even exist yet, and people more in that space. From working with them, completely unrelated, a project came up to work in Vegas that Benji and Judy were invited to be a part of a charity event with a couple other YouTubers, and I was going to film and document the whole thing.

Then I visited a church with my wife in Vegas, and that's where we live today. That's why we moved here, was I visited that church. They needed a director of communications. They wanted to get into social media more, email marketing, Facebook, and all these different things. While our business was profitable and was growing, or struggling to grow, there's a whole chapter about some health challenges that my wife has and we went through that journey, so the stability of having a salary, the stability and the chance of being a part of a larger church, kind of a new thing that would definitely stretch me, that I felt like I was in over my head and I needed to grow into, meaning I was working at a smaller church and this was now 40 staff, 2,000 to 2,500 people, a well connected kind of church. I've always believed in the proximity principal, which I learned from Ken Coleman just as far as the language of it, that whatever it is you want to do in your life and your future, that you should get as close as possible to somebody already doing it. Yes, you can read their books or listen to their audio, but if you can almost be mentored or apprenticed.

And so the lead pastor of that church, Benny Perez, he's an author. He would travel the world and speak. One of the great communicators, I think, of our day. So by this time, I was catching vision that was something I wanted to do in my future. I saw all those opportunity. They would have leadership conferences and they were a kind of entrepreneurial, forward thinking church that it's not just about the four walls of the church but let's impact media and arts and entertainment and athletics and science and family. So it really stirred my heart to be a part of that. So that kind of set us on our next chapter.

From when Clear Vision started, I never stopped having a side hustle. I never stopped always working on side projects, even potentially having side clients. I've always been not afraid of hard work, especially because of my hard ass dad Phil, the hardest working guy I know. So I just thought 40 hours a week is a joke. 40 hours is a vacation. 40 hours, if I'm working 40 hours I literally feel like I'm taking time off, like I'm bored. So even if I was working 40 or 45, I'd always be chipping away, shooting YouTube videos, experimenting on little side projects. Wrote a book called YouTube for Churches a few years later, always doing that. That was even something that was really cool going into that conversation. It's always nice if you, in the hiring process as opposed to later are starting something, it's like hey this is who I am, this is part of what I want to do. I'm going to crush it for you, but I'd also love to have a little margin to play because now it's clear as day to me that I'm an entrepreneur and that actually being my own boss is pivotal to my happiness and my well being. I didn't really fully know that, but freedom was one of my highest values. Room to play, creativity was one of my highest values. So that was kind of in that next season.

James McKinney: Oh my goodness. One of the things you said in there, and I didn't want to stop your flow, I wanted to let you keep going, but one of the things you said in there in meeting with Benny Perez and that shift to Vegas, you said the phrase, "I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life." Was this, as I'm using air quotes, the idea of communicating or was it… what was this for you?

Sean Cannell: Yeah, communication. If there's one skill and one way to summarize everything I do it's communication. Video is a medium of format. Storytelling is communication. But speaking on stage is something that I do a lot. So when I said this, it is what I would call maybe call it the expert or influencer industry. Some people think influencer means like a teenage girl taking selfies and trying to get a hotel to get a free vacation and they despite the term. But influencer, I mean thought leadership. I mean CS Lewis was an influencer, right? Political leaders that have changed… Nelson Mandela was an influencer. Jesus Christ was an influencer.

One of my freelance clients for a long time was Dr. Dave Martin, similar to Benny Perez. They did have training programs, books, they would host conferences, they would teach at conferences, network with other people. Tony Robbins, his suite was coaching, books, events. And I was having that clarity then, that what I got excited about… in fact, with Benny Perez there was kind of two arms. There was Benny Perez ministries and there was the local church, and I loved the local church stuff but I was more excited about the personal brand stuff. I also thought that someday I might have a personal brand. But what I always loved was the opportunity to work with somebody that was already walking in their calling, walking in their impact, walking in their greatness and seeing what an invaluable learning opportunity that was.

I think there's two sides of this. One is insecurity to step out and do it yourself, that can be the one extreme. But the other extreme was the wisdom and patience to say I would be that much sharper, wise, experienced if I don't try to jump the gun and start my own thing until I have learned everything that God wants me to learn, no matter what your faith or background. I've learned all the lessons that I need to get from the currencies so that I can actually prosper in the future. Let me grow his email list. We put a little leadership thing, let's see how many we can sell. We put books together. I knew I wanted to write books some day. Let's launch his books, see if we can rank him on Amazon. We did. Let's do Facebook ads.

I was like man, these will be all the skill sets that I'll need, and sure enough those are now the very things that we have done over the last four years in Think Media as well as seancannell.com, and that is what our business is today. We've got a book, a live event. We've got mastermind. We create content that's free that just impacts people. We've got digital courses. I do coaching. We've got other coaches now. And so sure enough, this whole thing has been pretty architected and it's been, I've had extreme ambition, but what I hope is also extreme patience by saying I want to do this when it's the right time. Because it's not just about it being the right thing. It also is about it being the right time. If you step into the right thing at the wrong time before you're fully ready, it's premature.

You think about this. There's nothing you can do. There's no course you can take, no drug you can take, no coaching you can take to have a baby that needs nine months to develop in a mother's womb to be born early. In fact, if it is born early it's catastrophic, it's scary. It very well could not live. It's total panic if it comes early. I think about that with a lot of our calling and our businesses, that sometimes if we try to do the right thing, the baby is coming. The birth of the dream, the conception of the dream, but it needs a maturing, it needs a growing process and all that to say again, you don't want that baby to come early. But even once it's born, it's still a mess man. The thing comes out, that thing is crazy, looks weird, head's all deformed. There's plasma all over it as it's coming out. Then you go through growing a business, or growing your calling, or growing whatever your skill set. One, that's crazy, crying all the time. The terrible twos, three is a little bit better. I'm in year four of business and stepping out on our own. We've got a four year old. That thing kind of can talk now, but it's still not fully there.

So I think there's something so powerful about timing. Like I said, I may have been able to certainly step into what I'm doing now sooner and it could have been a lack of confidence, but I also am just so grateful because the amount of learning and wisdom I did from the path I took, from learning from others and serving others, I believe that the key to getting what's in your heart is helping somebody else get what's in their heart. If you add enough value to somebody else, eventually that value comes back to you. Maybe not even from them. I think that's a universal principle.

James McKinney: Oh man. I hope all the listeners are finding encouragement in the last five minutes that just rolled out, because one of the things that you just said and really the core of what you're saying was talking about the season in which you're in, and capitalizing on that season. Whether that season is as an employee and delivering for that employer, figuring out what are the things that are going to work for you in the future state. I think one of the interesting things too that you were, you had a business, had its challenges. You saw an opportunity to help someone. One, you really wanted to be a part of that church but then you saw a pastor you could help build a personal brand and a ministry that they wanted to do outside of the local church to develop thought leadership. You knew that's kind of where you wanted to go. You wanted to help build that dream for that pastor and that person, and how that helped equip you for that next thing.

I think for a lot of listeners that are contemplating entrepreneurship, also the want-repreneurs, the ones that are working the 9 to 5 right now, your first step might just be get a job doing what it is you want to do on someone else's payroll to learn so when it comes time or the right season for you to step into your own venture, and everything you said those five minutes was absolute incredibly insightful and tactical for listeners. So listeners, if you are driving or running or doing something, take it back five minutes. Take notes when you're sitting at a desk in a quiet place, and actually write down that was just spoken because it's so incredibly valuable.

So thank you for sharing that insight into that season of your life, because I do believe every season has tremendous value. Even the incredibly hard ones, the incredibly dark ones have value. Even in the season of life when you are just running on the wild side, if you will, the hardships. There is value in the learnings that took place there. Obviously, you didn't get a chance to see the lessons and the value until later, but now you can look like wow, that helped shape me in some way, shape, or form. So thank you so much for sharing that.

At what point though do you then start to see what could be for think media, to as we see it today?

Sean Cannell: I think I always saw the potential of, in fact when I look back I actually think that if I had never left Marysville I would have gone all in with YouTube at the time, talking about tech and cameras, and some of the skills I'd already learned. I never, I don't want some weird butterfly effect. What would you have done differently? Nothing, because who knows what that would have triggered in the world. But I go wow. I think with a different level of confidence I could have stepped into that. I'm so grateful for every season because now in Think Media, what I learned was the things that actually matter a lot more than figuring out how to rank a YouTube video or get some traffic on YouTube. I was learning things about how to take care of my own soul. I was learning things about teamwork and leadership and vision and culture, which are the essence of now Think Media's 15 people. Where we have probably even are distinct among some of our peers is because they don't even necessarily have those skill sets. Where would they have gotten them? When you're kind of just this solopreneur that stumbles into some sort of a way to make money, what do you really know about teamwork, delegation, culture, leadership, vision? You know John Maxwell says there's actually no greater place to learn leadership than the local church because in a company, you can motivate people with money. But when you're supposed to be a leader in a church, you can't motivate people… I can't pay you, and what I need you to do is give up your weekend and show up early.

And so you have to motivate people with purpose, and motivate people with mission, and motivate people with the difference they're making and the lives that can be changed. You learn about culture, and you learn about communicating with different personality types and working with different people on teams. So everything that I learned out of that was preparing me. But there was also a part of my world view or my theology, which I don't even know if it's actually fully accurate, but I had this belief too while serving in a local church, I believe it was a calling. I believe that ministry is sacred. I now know, I was a campus pastor for a year and a half, it better be a calling because you don't just pick to be a pastor because it's like the worst job. It's the best job if you're called to do it. It's the worst job if you choose it as a job. Because it' heavy. You're dealing with people's emotions. I've done funerals. I've got to do weddings and I've done funerals. And I've done funerals for stillborn babies. When you're walking through that kind of stuff with people, you want to know you're called to do that.

So saying that, my belief system was I really do believe in spiritual authority. This is a controversial topic, but my pastor is not just a boss but that it's somebody who, for a time, God has kind of positioned me under. I see that in scripture. My belief was that the pastor as well as the elder team had a level of influencing my future. At the time of transitioning out of being a campus pastor, I did that for a year and a half, Irvine, California. Benny Perez comes and he sits down with me, and he goes, "How's it going? How are you feeling?" And I told him this. I said, "You know, it's going good but I kind of feel like Michael Jordan playing baseball." That was a way to summarize up how he felt too, but he heard where my heart was, and he goes, "I see that." And he had known, previous I was director of communications before that so I was doing social media, marketing, all that kind of stuff and I loved it. That was one of the biggest growing years of my life, but it was also very challenging. As a leader, I had grown from being in that lead role of a campus in Irvine.

So I learned so much out of it, but I also had the self awareness to be like okay, I not only have a passion for but a desire to really… I'm obsessed with YouTube. I'm way more passionate about impacting people outside of the four walls of the church rather than inside. And now I love and respect both, but I have a grace for that, a competency for that. I think that's true in what we've seen over the last four years. So it was at that time where I said hey, and I actually told him this, I said, "I'm asking you what do you want me to do next? Do you want me to be fulltime? Probably moving back to Vegas. Do you want me to be full time, part time, or no time?" And talked to the elders about it, and they came back and they said, "We want you to be no time." I was l ice what is that, I'm going to get fired? But it was amazing because when they said we recognize this grace of entrepreneurship on you, this passion for YouTube and social, what we're actually going to do is hire you back for a season just to contract work for us. But we actually acknowledge that you should be going back to business.

I'm not here to make any kind of statement about whether even that was my belief system, and believing that… Because I look back, and somebody could be like I'm not going to give over my future destiny to somebody else. But literally, it was then at that time, and here's mine conviction. See, I actually believe that God works through people. And I believe that was in the message I needed to hear, because that was a major transition of seasons. I didn't step out of ministry, that if you will I was released out, and that other people in my life were acknowledging the gifts, talents, and abilities in me if you will, my preparedness, whatever, and that then I finally felt now this release into a new season of actually leaving vocational ministry and going fulltime into entrepreneurship, and that's when it started. And it started with me freelancing, and then eventually started with us making fulltime income just through our own products programs, affiliate marketing, YouTube views, and now we have a multiple seven-figure business and team.

So it's all grown from there, and that's kind of where I see the full circle of the season. Again, I wouldn't actually prescribe that necessarily to anybody else, but for my faith I saw God as the one weaving the through line through that entire thing. And although it seems almost crazy that you would, as opposed to turnover, what do you think I should do as opposed to what do I want to do, but I believe God spoke through that situation and released me with a readiness to take on all that we've taken on since then.

James McKinney: This is what I love about the entrepreneurial journey, is because there are so many different paths in all of it. And yours runs through the church and I love every bit of that. And my journey runs through a season in the church and I love every bit of my journey as well. I know there are listeners that have a nuance to their journey that runs through. It is amazing how diverse the entrepreneurial journey is. But the part that is not diverse is the early days and the challenges that come from the early days. You had a little bit of a cushion with that freelance gig that Benny Perez was hooking you up with as they were releasing you. So you had a little bit of comfort that you had some level of income. You weren't starting from nothing, from ground zero. But what was, we'll say the first 12 months for you as you were now starting Think Media as we know it today, what was that like building the enterprise that you have now?

Sean Cannell: So for the first 12 months it was freelance clients, and there were three freelance clients and we were earning around $5,000 a month, or $5,000 exactly from three different clients.

James McKinney: And the business was just content creation or social media marketing?

Sean Cannell: I was doing social media management, a little bit of video editing and YouTube channel management, and a little bit of email marketing and digital marketing for a church and two author/speaker personal brand type people. So we had moved back to Vegas, were earning about $60,000 a year and that was actually very comfortable. Now I'm working from home, I'm doing that, we've got $60,000 a year and I'm using whatever spare time I have to work on my side hustle. At this time, we did start a channel called video influencers and we were dabbling with that, my friend Benji and I, and then I was focusing on Think Media.

But I will say actually the entrepreneur lesson I learned was one, the power of focus. I was not super focused on my side hustle in a very linear way of exactly how we were going to get from where we were to where I wanted to go because also the freelance clients blinded me a little bit. And I will say being self aware, I think fear and lack of confidence still was more of the dominating factor because while I'm still learning from those freelance clients, I was sort of perpetuating indefinitely that it will take me another two years or four years or five years to step out step out, and this depends on your business model. I knew I didn't want to have an agency but I'm essentially a one man agency for other clients. I'm saying yes to jobs. I'm flying to South Africa to shoot videos. I'm enjoying all of this, but it's delaying the main thing. It's like the color book The One Thing.

I didn't have a lot of focus. I was like shoot, we're living in Vegas making $60K a year, making an extra like $500 sometimes $1000 a month on the side, no kids, this is cool. And so I could of kind of stayed in that season forever until October 2015 happened. And in October 2015 one of the clients was the church but they had a conversation, brought me in, "Hey, we're making some changes and hiring some fulltime staff and whatever. This is going to be the last month or the last week you're getting paid." Okay, shoot but no big deal, still got two out of three clients. That was the first week in October '15, I thought I could just replace that client. But then second week, get a phone call. "Hey Sean. Guess what? We've got to let you go, it's just not working out as far as the work you're doing." Man, I felt punched in the gut because now this was $4,000 out of the $5,000 of income, and I hadn't told my wife yet. So we're now driving in LA and I'm like, "Babe, here's what's happening. We just lost $4,000 of income a month." And she's always believed in me and kind of had faith, but she's like whoa, that happened in just two weeks? That's pretty intense.

God as my witness, week three, phone rings. That third client lets me go. I actually kind of saw that one coming, because they were looking for more fulltime local support. That client was in Florida, I was in Vegas. So now in three weeks time, we lost 80-90% of our income and I'm losing my mind a little bit. In hindsight I shouldn't have been, but I was. We were about six months away from being zero in our bank accounts or less if we were just going to deplete our savings. I talked to a business mentor, David Goldstein who I met during the church season. He had also done online marketing and just has like a crazy legacy of different things. He'd been involved in SEO and websites. I call him and I'm like, "David, I'm really nervous. We've lost all this income. I'm really worried." And what he said to me was he goes, "You know, well I'm not worried." "Well, I know you're not worried David, you're independently wealth and last time I checked, you've never paid a rent. So great. I don't know if you hear me. I know you're not worried. You don't worry about anything, but I am worried because we don't have money now."

But I'm so glad he said that because what he meant was I'm not worried. At some point as an entrepreneur, you have to jump off the cliff. It seems to me that you just got kicked off the cliff, now it's time to fly. Even from his point of view, and as I look back we were so much closer than I had realized so I went all in. after a week of kind of gathering my wits, November 1, 2015 I now had no boss for the first time in all of these years. No freelance clients, nothing to do, no obligations, no ties, no commute, nowhere to go. I had total freedom and autonomy and I will say that as high pressure as that season was I tasted for the first time, I had always been saying yes to trickles of money, yes to a client here, yes to a project here kind of out of fear. Now it was like wait a minute, I as an entrepreneur have a complete blank slate to create. So I started to work 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. For what I was originally doing, this was having mastered YouTube and ranking videos, being great at creating videos and understanding affiliate marketing by reviewing tech and cameras, was I just started around Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday shopping online spending goes through the roof. I just started making as many videos as I could ranking them in search, through search engine optimization so they could get views consistently, and then when people would click one of my affiliate links and buy a camera I'd make a small commission. That grew to being at scale, and Think Media was 16,000 subscribers when that all happened.

By January 1, 2016 Think Media was at 20,000 subscribers and my check from Amazon that month was $4,500 so I had replaced the $5,000 but now I had replaced it with leverage because when I make these videos, I don't have to just make them every month. They compound because they rank in search. So now, I've got leverage. I'm waking up January 2016 commuting from my bedroom to the Nespresso machine, and then to my office. A little bit of traffic from my two Chihuahuas, but now I'm working from home. Every day, honestly not since we made the money, every day since I no longer had any bosses or clients I felt like it's Christmas. I felt wow, I'm now living in sort of freedom and then financial freedom by just the beginning of 2016. Then from there, it's just been scaling to the moon.

It's happened fast and it's so funny because I love this show and I love the chance to get to talk to you. Because what people see now is Think Media is just coming up on being four years old, and that it grew so fast from right then. But the reason it grew so fast is because overnight success is never overnight. It was now me just being basically unleashed, kicked off the cliff with the skill set and the knowledge but I needed that push. To your point, I had a cushion when I left that season and it wasn't until I got kicked off the cliff that I saw what I was truly made of. I would of, I think, for fear and the desire for security just continued to stay anchored to other clients until I saw what I was truly made of during that season.

James McKinney: Oh my goodness, this is… I hope every single person listening can see the power in owning your business. A lot of times that comfort… the reason I ask that question about that comfort is because part of my story. Those contract gigs because it allows us to pay our rent or our mortgage and provide for our family, it's critical but slowly that becomes like you said an anchor. It slows us down to what could be and we lose sight. We say that I'm taking this contract gig or this freelance gig because it helps provide while I'm building this business, but it's so easy for us to lose sight of what it is we wanted to build because we're building something else for someone else. So I love that that was your narrative. I love that in the month of October 2015 it all went away, that Goldstein was able to give you encouragement, actually put courage inside of you to move forward with it. And I love also too that during this whole time you didn't realize the platform you had really built. All you had to do was flip a couple switches and things were rolling for you because you had a platform of 16,000 subscribers already, so you did have an audience. You just weren't leaning into it because you had the comfort over here. And I hope everybody listening can evaluate where it is they are at and is there something that they are grabbing onto for security that is slowing them down in whatever it is they're trying to build. So thank you so much for sharing that part of the journey.

As our time comes to an end, there's two questions I ask every founder, but there's one more I want to ask about where you are at with Think Media today. Think Media today is coming up on its fourth year, like you said. It has grown drastically since you were kicked off the ledge in October 2015. If we were to have a where are they now episode three years from now, what do you think Think Media will be? What do you want Think Media to be in three years from now?

Sean Cannell: If we could go five years, I recently posted this and it may be clarity I've only had just recently. Part of our mission is to help 10,000 people create a fulltime living and make a difference in the world doing what they love with online video. So what we do through free content and through helping people find the right tools, the cameras, the tech as well as the right strategies and knowhow of how social platforms work as well as YouTube, it is really build like I have a fulltime income from scratch, being a small town kid, college dropout, barely finished high school. And making money online and figuring out these side hustle type of ways of earning money. Or people who already have businesses, scaling their revenue by leveraging these tools. We want to help 10,000 people do that. How do you measure that?

It's kind of challenging but just recently I ran into a guy named Sean, same spelling, at a conference. "Hey, I took your course. It helped me go fulltime. I'm living my dream right now." Shot a video together, ran into a girl at a workshop. "What do I do next? I'm making fulltime income. I'm worried about taxes. I quit my job." And I'm like that's a great problem to have. So talking to her or people… someone just tweeted me they made $50,000 their first year of following what we teach. And of course, fulltime is also a different number for all types of people. It could just mean as a stay at home mom making an extra $20,000 a year by building your influence on social media and selling products on Etsy. Or it could mean you live in an area where yes, you make $50,000 a year now but you hate your job and life and if you made $35,000 just living in a small town, being able to have everything on your own terms. So it's a range of what that definition is.

Here's what I'm shooting for is we have an event every year called Grow with Video Live. We just had 250 people come this last year. That was the capacity of the room, sold out for us which was cool. By 2025 I want 10,000 people to come to Las Vegas not because they're registering for a conference they hope to learn something from, and that's great too, but that it's like a homecoming. That by 2025 I want people to say that I'm one of those people. You helped me scale or you helped me start from scratch.

To be even more specific, we want to help 10,000 get their first 10,000 subscribers on YouTube and generate at least $10,000. But to hit that mark, and here's the thing if by 2025, not to reduce the goal, if we have 4,665 people come to our conference in Las Vegas in 2025 aim for the stars, you hit the moon, that's kind of a way of measuring the goal. That's what we're hoping to do, and then orienting everything around that. That's why we create free content to help people get there. In fact, there's people who have quit their jobs just from watching our free content. Whether they read a book, whether they take a course, whether they attend an event, be a part of a mastermind. The fact that we are living through the greatest communications revolution in the last 2,000 years - the internet, social media - the rules have changed. The gatekeepers are gone.

For the first time, people have choice. They can choose what to do with their free time and create things that can change their life, their future, their legacy, their family, and I've experienced that. Many of our team members, we are different types of examples of that. One of the values on our team is that we really believe in being player coaches. We don't want to be teachers that did this one time and that are now just teaching on it, but we want to be players that are still in the field, still getting punched in the face, still got cuts under our eyes, got dirt under our fingernails.

So we have our chief operation officer also has a homeschool channel. They completely cover their homeschool and then some with the curriculum, with tablets for their kids and with their decor and the homeschool room and all the stuff because of the money she's making by just working on a side homeschool channel. Omar on our team has a photography channel. Lauren on our team has a makeup channel. Diane on our team has an entrepreneurship channel. In our community, we want to be the players so we absolutely have the best information, the tactical what's working in the trenches, and then the coaches. Then we help people say here's how we do it. We want to model it. Follow us, let's pioneer this. So yeah, we want to help 10,000 people create a fulltime living doing what they love and making a difference in the world with online video.

James McKinney: That is probably one of the best "where are they now" recaps that we've had on the entire show. I love every bit of it. I know I'm going to be keeping tabs on it because I want to see that become a thing for you. I know you have brought tremendous value to me as I look to bring the show, The Startup Story, into YouTube. In my mind, YouTube was a place I was never going to be but the more people that I talked with, they're leveraging YouTube in a way that I never thought about leveraging YouTube. I have spent many hours going through so many videos of just what's the right equipment, how do you even get started. So I know that this is surreal for me. I hope that all of our listeners are going to keep going back and just replay, replay, replay because there's so much incredible value here.

But I want to honor your time. And there's two final questions that I ask every single founder. The first one is about gratitude. One of the things you said earlier that resonates with me, and this is why I ask this question, is that if our outside grows faster than our inside, we're doomed for failure. It's going to ruin us. So when you look back at your entire journey, from childhood to now, who are the people that you point to with tremendous gratitude for their contribution to where you are today?

Sean Cannell: Well without being cliche, God would be first. God's grace and believing in creation, I don't think I made myself and so I'm just grateful to even be here, to be talking to you right now, to be breathing the air, to be experiencing life, and to be having even the chance to experience the ups and downs of life thus far. I think that my parents, so grateful for sometimes they're hard on themselves. I think all parents kind of are. They think about what they could do different. I think about all the things they did so well and that I learned from them. They are not perfect. Either my dad John Cannell or my stepdad Phil or my mom Susan Escaline now, was Susan Cannell when she was married to my dad. Just all of them, they've been incredible influences in my life.

Then throughout the years, Jeff Morris. He was that first youth pastor who got me into video. To this day, we're still great friends. We've worked on projects together. He's starting a new church called Rhythm Church in Oceanside, opening up January 12, 2020. I think about Benny Perez and the church LV and their impact. I think about Mike Villamore and the Turning Point Church. Even though things went pretty crazy there, there was a lot of nutrients we still got out of the soil of that season and so many of the leaders there. To this day now Jason Chavez, my current pastor at the City Light Church.

And then I think the final one would just be my friends that have been so faithful. Just having good friends in your life that have seen me in the ups and the downs. And then a couple online business mentors. Shalim Johnson at a close proximity and Brett Johnson, and then also people I've learned from from afar. Gary Vaynerchuk, I read Crush It in 2009. That book really influenced my life, and guys like Louis House and Brendan Burchard. I think this list, and I could actually go on and on, I absolutely believe that no one succeeds alone. Those that think they do are in trouble. Pride comes before the fall. I would not be who I was if it was not for the influence and the wisdom, and the love and the prayers, and the patience and the grace of those around me.

Then absolutely goes without saying my wife Sonya Cannell. She has been with me through the ups and the downs. We just celebrated 14 years of marriage. She's our chief financial officer and she has been an absolute strength to me over the years. Pumped we're still married, you know what I mean? It's just that's a rare thing, 14 years. We got married at 21, too. We've also been through ministry together. We've been through business together. There's no fights like business fights, and she has endured. She's watched me mature, make a lot of mistakes. She's an absolute strength and my best friend. Just so many people I m absolutely grateful for those around me.

Not to take this too much longer but I took John Maxwell's definition of success. At the end of my life, how I define success yes I hope to impact a lot of people. Yes, hope to generate some big income to make a big difference. But he says that at the end of my life, I want the people closest to me to love and respect me the most. I just thought that was really well put, I'm just going to take that. So that's also how I hope my life ends. I don't want to just be known, because I've seen this happen, people can achieve extreme public success and yet their home life or their marriage or their kids, that's maybe not the greatest reflection of maybe who they appear to be publicly. So my hope is it's actually all the people I listed that I want to as much keep short accounts, as far as it depends you live at peace with everyone. Man, I want to have rich friendships and rich family, and as strong a marriage as possible. As far as I can, depends on me, I would never want my ambition to compromise the things that matter most in life and so I'm so grateful for all of these humans. And I owe much if not all of my success to others because none of us succeed alone.

James McKinney: Oh my goodness, that was incredible. That was awesome. I love that question. I've said it time and time again, if I had to bring the show down to just a handful of questions the gratitude one would never get trimmed. I absolutely love that question. So my final question as our time is coming to an end, we've been talking to tens of thousands of listeners of The Startup Story. I want to bring this conversation down to just you and one person. I don't care who that person is. The defeated entrepreneur who has been punched in the gut time and time again, about ready to call it quits and hang up. I don't care if it's the want-repreneur sitting at a desk, 9 to 5, he's got a book full of dreams and ideas but some fear on moving forward, whatever that case may be. Whether it's the mortgage or the spouse and kids, whatever the burden that they're carrying that they're afraid to move forward.

Or maybe it's the frustrated entrepreneur who cash flow just continues to be a nonstop issue. They've been at it for five something years and they just can't get anywhere, and they're seeing people blow up in major ways within their industry, but they just can't get anywhere. Whoever of those personas you want to speak to, what is one thing you would like to leave them with, with your final words on The Startup Story?

Sean Cannell: Business is a game of attrition. What I want to leave you with is speaking maybe to that person that looks to the left and the right and sees this person growing so fast, or seeing this other company growing so fast, or even this person stole your idea, or this person stabbed you in the back. Business is a game of attrition. Oftentimes, you don't have to be the brightest, you don't have to be the best, you just have to be the last man or last woman standing. So I want to encourage you, you'll win if you don't quit. I want to encourage you to wrap your mind around the fact that this is a marathon and not a sprint. I remember being at Red Robin waiting table with my business Clear Vision Media, and waiting on people I went to high school with who drove up in fancy cars, came in with fancy clothes, were working at some kind of insurance job or something like that. I remember they're making this money and I'm their server, and they're telling me to go get them more Diet Coke.

In my own mind I thought, you wrestle with your mind, oh I would be where I should be. But I just had an inner confidence that we're all on our own timeline and we're taking things at our own pace. Comparison is the thief of joy, and never compare your beginning to somebody else's middle. Business is a game of attrition. If you don't quit you'll win. Now that I feel like yes, I've been in business four years but I've been doing video for almost 17 or 18. I've been in ministry. I've seen businesses come and go and startups come and go, and I've seen a lot go. And I've now seen a lot spring up quickly and have a lot of short term success, but is it really success if they're here today gone tomorrow, or is it really success if they're outwardly successful but absolutely dying inside, or compromising things in order to get that success? What good is it to gain the world but lose your soul?

So I want to encourage you slow and steady wins. I want to encourage you don't quit, keep working hard, and keep being patient. There's so many good examples of startup founders that hit gold in their fifties, in their sixties, in their seventies, come on in their eighties. But business is a game of attrition, and I'm convinced that most people, the majority actually give up on the journey and the path. So if you resolve to just say I'm going to stay healthy, I'm going to stay slow and steady. I'm going to treat this as a marathon, not a sprint. I actually am a runner. It's actually two different approaches to the run. You don't go try to run a marathon like a sprint.

It can be easy in today's culture with the pressure of social media, with the pressure of everybody knowing what everyone's doing because of the internet and because of social media. Head down, blinders on, work your land, work your thing. Business is a game of attrition. If you can just be the last man standing, the last woman standing, then you very well may become number one in an instant, because those who took shortcuts, those who made compromises, those were going for the quick win, they were sprinting and they weren't running in such a way as to run for the long haul, did not stand the test of time and were unable to stand any longer. I struggle with this every day because on YouTube, it's like a week is a year. You've just got you feel like you need to sprint constantly, burn the candle at both ends. But what's so fascinating about YouTube right now is en masse, YouTubers are burning out, quitting, making videos about it because the industry and the pressure of social media is so intense. Coming out on podcasts now about how they've been on the verge of divorce, how they didn't believe in burnout, and now they are more burnt out than they ever could have realized. And this makes me think okay, I might not be growing as fast as the person on the right or my left, but if I'm still standing in six years, the person on my right and my left probably won't even be around anymore. So business is a game of attrition. Make the right moves, slow and steady wins, be patient, keep going, keep working hard, but pace yourself for the long haul because this is a marathon and not a sprint.

James McKinney: Please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram sharing with me what was the most impactful thing you received from Sean's story. For me, it was definitely the events of October 2015 when he lost most of his clients and 90% of his revenue, and how that moment was redeemed when a business mentor poured into him. I am sure that season resonated with me because of my own personal journey, and you can hear that in episode 50. But in that moment where he lost his clients and revenue, Sean had a decision to make as to how he would respond. He could have easily packed up shop and gotten a job as a great creative content manager, but he didn't. He leaned into his, well at the time 16,000 YouTube subscribers and thought creatively on how to generate revenue at that very moment. There is absolutely nothing more inspiring than necessity.

See, until that moment he had a few paying clients and that created a level of comfort for him, a comfort that didn't create a hunger for more. Once that comfort was removed, he was forced to innovate. Well that response has turned out incredibly well for him. Again, just a few years out of that season and his channels have millions of subscribers and he has a multimillion dollar business. His story is one that has some real and tangible takeaways for all of us.

I really hope you found some great value in Sean's Startup Story episode. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's hear from Sean on how we can support him.

Sean Cannell: So one way you can support me and what I'm doing with Think Media is number one, go to YouTube. Type in the words Think Media and you'll find the channel there. Tons of videos and resources to help you learn how to build your influence, your company, and your profits faster with online video. If you read books or like to listen to audio books, check out YouTube Secrets on Amazon and Audible. And finally if you are ready to punch fear in the face and press record, and you're looking for the right camera, the right accessories, the right gear that doesn't have to break your budget, just go to thinkgearguide.com. That is our gear guide where we talk about cameras, lighting, microphones for all different budgets so you can crush video on all the different social media platforms and stand out in the marketplace. That's thinkgearguide.com. You can download that resource and start building your influence with video today.

James McKinney: So come on, The Startup Story listeners. Let's show up for Sean Cannell and Think Media. We'll include all those links Sean mentioned in our show notes. Remember, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. And now, for my personal ask.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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February 11 2020
Sean Cannell, founder of Think Media

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