Ep 051

Becoming a Lifestyle Investor, Hiring A+ Talent, and Building a Life by Design

With

Justin Donald

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Inside This Episode

Today, I’m talking with my good friend, Justin Donald. He’s a successful entrepreneur and the founder of The Lifestyle Investor – a company that teaches people how to create wealth, without creating a job.

Justin went from being stuck in the rat race and putting work before family to mastering low-risk cash flow investing and passive income strategies. He developed a set of investing principles that allowed him to buy back his time and grow his net worth to over 9-figures. And the best part is, he gets to show up fully as a husband and father.

Through his Lifestyle Investor membership group, courses, book, and podcast, Justin has taught thousands of others how to build the wealth, freedom, and lifestyle of their dreams.

Justin’s also got a ton of wisdom when it comes to building and scaling businesses. He owns, multiple franchises, multiple real-estate businesses, one of the largest mobile home park portfolios in the US, a residential maintenance and rehab company, several operating companies, and more. He’s hired thousands of people throughout his career, so there’s a ton of insights in this episode around growing and empowering your team.

3 of the biggest insights from Justin Donald

  • #1 How a 5-hour hike with Justin became the origin of Triad’s mission of “Do Business. Do Life” – and why I strongly believe in the idea of work/life integration.

  • #2 Justin’s tips for hiring top talent and empowering your team, taken from his years of experience starting, acquiring, and scaling businesses. 

  • #3 How to avoid the trap of trading time for money, and build a life by design, not by default.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • Nurturing your closest relationships
  • How Justin became The Lifestyle Investor
  • Hiring and growth tips for financial advisors
  • Personality assessments for potential hires
  • The origins of “Do Business. Do Life.”
  • Get off the hamster wheel & build a life by design
  • The benefits of creating a podcast
  • Being intentional in both business and life

GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE ON THE BUS TO SCALE YOUR BUSINESS | JUSTIN DONALD

THE DO BUSINESS DO LIFE ORIGIN STORY | JUSTIN DONALD

THE POWER OF PODCASTING | JUSTIN DONALD

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE: 

PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED REVIEW

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MIC DROP MOMENTS WITH JUSTIN DONALD

  • “If you put yourself out there and you’re willing to be exposed or be vulnerable, good things will come from it.” – Justin Donald

  • “Culture will eat strategy for breakfast.” – Justin Donald

  • “Most people say, ‘Hey, I’m an entrepreneur or I’m a business owner,’ but really the business owns you.” – Justin Donald

  • “When people own their time, they don’t have to make as much as they think.” – Justin Donald

  • “Be intentional with who you’re spending time with. Be intentional with who you’re building businesses with, and pick the people that you just love and adore.” – Justin Donald

Brad Johnson: Welcome back to another episode of Do Business, Do Life. I have my friend Justin Donald here with us today. Welcome to the show, Justin.

Justin Donald: Thanks, Brad. I can’t wait to hang and catch up and no better setting than for the world to hear.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, let’s do it. And we were talking about war stories because we go back aways and I said, if you drop anything on here, I don’t want you to share with the world, I’ll just have Emily edit it out, so just make sure.

Justin Donald: I offered to drive some good ammunition out there for your audience.

Brad Johnson: I know you did. And I know you will. Well, for those that don’t know you, I thought it’d just be fun to get into how we met in the first place, which was really cool. I have this thing in life that you put yourself around great people, and they tend to introduce you to more great people. And John Ruhlin was kind enough when I met him to take me to the very first ever Front Row Dads with Jon Vroman. And I believe it was the second one he ever hosted that we connected at, where you were on a panel, just kind of sharing how you kind of did a year in the life of your family and some of the rhythms you had. And I just remember walking up to you after and I said, “Man, I really appreciated your share.”

And I kind of put myself out there. I’m like, “Hey, I know I need to do some accountability. I want to kind of keep myself in check how I show up as a dad.” You want to hop on a call once a week, once every other week. And you were kind enough to say, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And that from there went from two strangers to two guys that became friends over the years because that’s been a few years back now. So, you’re one of the most well connected, one of the best networkers I know. So, give me your take on how you see organically relationships like that happening in life.

Justin Donald: Well, I think if you put yourself out there and you’re willing to be exposed or be vulnerable, I think good things can come from it. I mean, not every time is it going to be honored. I mean, that was a big ask, right? A weekly call. But also, I loved just in understanding you and where you were coming from and the authenticity that you had, I was like, “Well, gosh, if I’m going to do that with anyone, I should do it with you.” And if I’m going to form a strong relationship and a strong bond with someone, I want it to be someone I’d be excited about. And this is probably good for me, too. And it was. It was great. And we were able to hold each other accountable.

But I mean, because we talked about just really important stuff right out of the gates, we went deep fast. We got to know each other really well. And life really started to happen together, right? We just started doing things together. So, from a networking standpoint, I love people, I love connecting, I love events where I can meet new people. But I also have my very trusted cabinet of 10 to 12 people that I’m really intentional about spending time with and making sure that we’re connecting, making sure that we’re having experiences. So, instead of life happening to me and to the relationships, it’s that I can happen to those relationships, I can move intentionally forward to create the time, the space, the place for us to really be able to do life together.

Brad Johnson: And you do a great job of that, by the way. One of the things I’ve come to really appreciate about you is we’ve gotten to know each other better. You very intentionally nurture those relationships and connections and you’re always like, “Hey, I’m going here. This would be really fun. Do you want to go with me?” And I think that’s one thing. If I look at the people that I know in my life that have really deep, meaningful connections with people, they nurture them, they pour into them. And you do a great job of that. Do you have some things in your life? You said you’ve got 10 or 12 in kind of your inner circle. Are there rhythms that you intentionally do to maintain those relationships?

Justin Donald: Yeah, I mean, first and foremost, my wife and I do an annual family planning day. It’s marriage and family planning, so it’s planning out everything for us. We just have one daughter. For other friends that have many kids, it’s iterations with each kid, but really just understanding what’s important to her, what’s important to me, what do we want to do together, who are the relationships that she needs to keep top of mind and be intentional with, who are the relationships I need to do that with, and then who are the relationships that collectively we can do because as couples, sometimes, it’s really hard to find a unit of four where everyone kind of is in tune and lockstep and gets along. I mean, sometimes, one of my closest friends, maybe their spouse, the connection isn’t there for my wife or vice versa, right? And so, I think, we want to protect those relationships.

And so, as we do this family planning day, we start mapping out who are we going to spend time with, who are the people that I need to get together with just solo, and then who are the people that we’re going to be intentional with, the four people, the two couples, or maybe it’s even six couples. And in one of our cases, we’re doing a trip this summer in Greece with two of the couples that we really wanted to get more time with. So, we’re going to hit the Greek isles and get that extended time with them.

Brad Johnson: Love it. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And what’s really magical is when you find other couples that both of you just really thrive around, so that’s cool on the Greece trip. Make sure you bring me back some good wine. There’s some good wine over in that region.

Justin Donald: You bet. And I’m excited that as your schedule slows down, I mean, you’ve been heads down here for a number of years just really building things out. And so, I’ve offered a lot of travel and meetups and it’s been harder for you to be able to pull the trigger. We’ve gotten a few things in over the years, but I see your schedule opening up more and I see my offers only increasing. So, I think there’s a lot of fun to be had here in the future.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, definitely been very heads down the last three years as we were talking earlier today. And I think, that’s a good segue into kind of this entrepreneurial journey because there’s a lot of our stories that have parallels where you were very successful inside of an organization, Cutco, back in the day and rose through the ranks there of starting at the ground floor until you were running divisions and regions of that company. And I had my own journey where I came up inside of a company and kind of had my own book of business before I went out on my own. So, let’s go into a little bit of your story because there will be some listening in and watching them that are unfamiliar, but give us a little bit of the Justin Donald evolution from Cutco into Lifestyle Investor and what you’re doing today.

Justin Donald: Sure, yeah. So, I really got started early working. So, I mean, even before Cutco, my parents told me, “Hey, if you want spending money, we’re not going to be your bank. You got to go get a job.” So, in seventh grade, I got a sales job where I was selling newspaper subscriptions, not the papers, an actual subscription door-to-door but without a newspaper to actually show them for the subscription. So, it was kind of tricky, and I was horrible at it at first, like, so bad, it was 100% commission job. So, so bad that for weeks, I made no money, right? And for whatever reason, I never quit. I think I just never even thought quitting was an option. I just thought, “Well, I’m going to figure it out.”

And I eventually did figure it out. And I eventually got pretty good at it. And I was able to separate, taking things personally versus someone saying no to an offer versus no to me. And that really changed the whole game for me. I was able to numb that part of me that felt like I was being rejected, build some calluses around that, and then learning how to handle objections. And so, I ended up doing that all through high school. I ended up running my own crew. So, my senior year, I took kids out to do what I had done the last number of years. And I always had a good amount of money because I worked hard to figure out, basically, to make whatever I need to make for fun and then some.

And so, the transition into Cutco was really easy because I went from selling something really hard to sell that people really didn’t want a subscription. And in most cases, what it was is they already have a subscription, I’m selling some other paper and they don’t want another subscription to selling a product during college, technically, right after I graduated high school that people actually used, liked. It was high quality, had a forever guarantee, and so, the sales were so much easier. But I had this background of working hard, hustling, not taking no personally. And it made the transition in Cutco very smooth.

And so, I ended up doing well as a sales rep. I ran an office as a manager, as an internship for a summer, did really well with that, but more importantly, enjoyed it. I competitively was good, which was more important to me at that time than the money I made because I always knew, I’d figure out how to make money, right? I just wanted to be the best or do the best I could, but really, I wanted to be the best. And so, I performed really well regionally that first year.

And then the next year, instead of going into investment banking, which is what I thought I was going to do, I had a number of offers, but I ended up picking to stay with Cutco and build out my own organization, and we ended up becoming the top office or location in my level of competition. And then we became the top office, period. And then I was able to get promoted to running a division. And in our peak, I had about 40-some-odd managers, 300 assistant managers. And then I think, we recruited most years anywhere from 2,000 or 4,000 people, a lot of years, 3,000 or 4,000 people a year. So, it was a pretty big recruiting operation. And I feel like it set the stage for everything after that because my skills on a leadership side, on a management side, on a recruiting side, it made everything easy. Just like the skills I had with selling newspaper subscriptions made it easy for me to sell Cutco, the skills that I had in leadership and management, and really relationship building really allowed me to kind of take that into starting my own business.

And technically, I had my own business under Cutco’s umbrella, but stepping out, starting a consulting company, starting a single-family home maintenance company and, from there, starting Lifestyle Investor. And so, I can talk more of the details, but that at least got to the Lifestyle Investor part of the story. But we started, a couple of friends and I, we want to start a company, and I always was a little nervous to do that until I kind of had the cash flow taken care of. So, I bought mobile home parks early in my career. I wanted to buy assets that produce income. I had a friend that was doing it. I ended up getting mentored by one of the most successful people in the space, the largest private owner of mobile home parks. And we got started early. And so, that really was what gave me this clarity, this peace of mind that I could get into the business world is I didn’t really have to worry about money. I didn’t worry if the business failed or not because the first park I bought replaced my wife’s income as a teacher and the second park.

So, she retired. We had our daughter. The second park I bought replaced our survival income so we didn’t have to work. Now, it wasn’t lifestyle income. Yeah, it was just survival, but it was a weight lifted off of my shoulders. And then we bought another park, it covered our lifestyle income. We bought another park. Technically, we sold one and flip that into two other ones. There’s something called 1031 exchange, where you can roll those taxes or defer the taxes, basically. And we bought two other parks and that covered the earned income that we had at that time from one of the businesses, and that transition became really smooth because we didn’t have to make any money. We could really call our own shot of when to work, how to work, what do we work on, and it was really special.

And so, because of having that space, that clarity, the ease to just try something and not worry if it failed or not, I think that allowed me to be in a place where we were able to build a really big business, company called Stellar, that services the largest institutional owners, single-family home maintenance companies in the US. And that company has grown to be a very large company. We raised VC round, Series A and a Series B from S3 Ventures, the largest Texas VC, and that company’s taken off. And along the way, I really was able to figure out what it was that I wanted in life, what it was that I wanted to help other people do, and taking a year off to figure out next steps, that’s really where the Lifestyle Investor came from. And we can talk more about that if you want.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, well, we’ll definitely get into that. That was one of the things I remember when we first connected. Because I came from a world, obviously, the world of finance, where most of the times, it’s these pools of money and certain financial instruments, equities, bonds, annuities, all that, where you were trying to generate a return for some day money. And you were very much in the world of creating passive income to create freedom around your lifestyle. And I know we’ve geeked out a lot on that, and you’ve helped me in a number of instances there. And I think that’s one of the things, it’s almost like you created an annuity with an income stream based on your investments to give you that freedom to live life on your own terms, which really inspired me in a lot of ways. And what’s funny is that journey was happening on your side as kind of Lifestyle Investor rises, I was leaving my corporate job to venture out on my own as an entrepreneur, which is, as you know, very scary, when you go from a guaranteed paycheck to, hey, I’ve got this dream and I hope someday it pays off.

Justin Donald: You did the opposite to me because I could have done it that way. I think my wife would have freaked out if I did it that way and just, like, cut the cord and went and pursued it. And for her, I knew in the back of my mind, she’s going to feel way more comfortable if lifestyle doesn’t change. So, a lot of the reasons I did it is for her sake because I could have just jumped ship and done what you had done, which there’s a thrill to that. But there’s also a peace of mind on the other side.

Brad Johnson: I don’t know if my wife Sarah would call it a thrill. But she would have preferred your path as opposed to not make a paycheck for two years, I’m sure. Well, before we go into Lifestyle Investor, there’s a couple of stops along the way I want to dive into. Being a guy that started kind of door-to-door sales in the newspaper world and then that translated to Cutco, in finance, obviously, a lot of financial advisors started very much in sales. I mean, there’s the Ed Jones story of door knocking, that’s basically how most guys that grew up in that model started. What are some things, because you went from being the sales guy to overseeing sales guys or a team, any tips that you can think of for financial advisors out there? Because many of them are on that path of like, “Hey, it’s an I, a single player game, to a We”, where they want to start to train and empower a team. And that’s really tough when you’ve got these like, “Hey, I’ve been doing this for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years” and just like the school of hard knocks where you figure out objection handling and relationship building. So, what tips along that journey would you give advisors out there trying to build sales teams?

Justin Donald: Well, I feel like we could do a whole podcast episode just on this topic because it’s so important and there’s so many nuances and so many things that we could get into. But just preliminarily, I would say, I think it’s really important to work with people the way that they are wired, the way that they’re worked best. I found using personality assessments to be a great resource to figuring out how do I communicate best with people to help them perform at the highest level, but make sure that we have a great working relationship. And so part of it is, are the right people in the right seats? I mean, if I identify an A player, I’m happy to get them in the organization and figure out later where they need to go. But it really solves a lot of problems if you know that this role needs a super detailed person and you’re able to figure out in an assessment or even just in an interview how detail oriented they are and kind of make that match. I also think it’s really important, I always think about long term, that progression. So, when someone starts with me, I would like to know that they’ve got an executive level profile, because I want them to grow with me in the business. So for example, one of my very first executive assistants, and technically she was a personal assistant first and then became an executive assistant, and then she became head of our real estate portfolio. And now she’s working in Lifestyle Investor, but also working as an Asset Manager on the real estate side of things. And so for her, when I look at her assessment, not only does she have skills that complement me, that I think is really important, especially as like first employee on or very new people in the beginning that they have complementary skills to you, as a sole member/founder, but also that she has the capacity to be able to fill these bigger roles. Does her profile allow her to move into a Chief Marketing Officer, or a Chief Operating Officer, or a Chief Financial Officer, or any of the C-suite, that is important to me. And then I think the culture, the morale, the camaraderie, the spirit in the office. I have heard this for a long time, I don’t know where it started. I’ve heard it, a lot of people lay claim to this, but that culture will eat strategy for breakfast, right? And this whole idea of making sure that people feel loved on and that they feel important and they feel part of something bigger than themselves, like all that matters. But to also show those people appreciation often along the way as you’re building a relationship, building trust and really empowering them, trying to move from a dependent relationship to an independent relationship, righ? At the beginning, probably there’s a lot more hand-holding, or there should be, to moving them to independence where they can run on their own. And I’m okay with people making mistakes. I would rather give them that autonomy early on than to live in the camp of micromanagement. I’m a much better macro manager. And also, I would rather hire people, I would rather personally pay more for the right person that has a profile that would allow them to be an independent worker, to be an independent team member knowing that maybe I got to pay a little bit more to get them to have the experience. Or maybe I don’t. But even if I did, I would rather find that person than the person I have to micromanage. I don’t want to live in a space of the turnover that typically happens in micromanagement. I think retention is much stronger in a macro management environment.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And who likes to be micromanaged? Nobody, right? So if you can get great people and empower them, and as one person once told me, “Hire great people and get the hell out of the way.” For the most part, you know. I love that. Let’s go back to the personality assessments. Those are big at Triad as well. What are some of your favorite personality assessments when looking at potential hires?

Justin Donald: Probably my two favorites would be Culture Index and Predictive Index. Those are the two that I’ve used the most. Those two, I have the most back office knowledge of. But I’ve done them all. I’ve used them all. Kolbe is really interesting. I mean, probably the biggest one in the space is Myers-Briggs. But there’s DISC. I mean, there’s tons of them. You’ve got StrengthsFinders. I mean, all of them I think are great. And the way I would look at it is, what’s better? Instead of what’s the best? What’s better? Going in it blind or having an assessment? Well, definitely having an assessment. Well, once you make that realization, then it probably matters less what that assessment is and more, do you know the ins and the outs of that assessment to help you work with people the right way, and hire the right people and actually be able to retain them after you hire them, right? To make less mistakes of hiring the wrong people, which is really costly. Costly from a time standpoint more so than from a financial standpoint. But for me, I have really found the Culture Index and the Predictive Index to be a little bit more of outliers in the space. I like StrengthsFinders for a lot of reasons. And by the way, I would incorporate that. But, these other two I think, kind of stand on their own.

Brad Johnson: Awesome. Yeah. And the thing is, one of the biggest keys in leadership, I mean, it’s been said many times, is self-awareness. And to your point, nothing, no self-assessment or some form of self-assessment, not only does it help you as a leader create more self-awareness, kind of your wiring, how you show up certain ways, how you communicate. The same for your team, like you’re developing now self-awareness among the team, which is obviously going to improve the culture. So, we use where we lean heavily on self-assessments as well, or personality assessments, I should say. Since our time is short, I’m just going to keep flowing here. We kind of did the Cutco journey, grew up there. Started making some investments that created passive income, which created some freedom. And it was right around that time, that our paths crossed at Front Row Dads. And going into this, I was like, I have to hit this story, because one of the things at Triad we’ve heard a lot is “Man. Do Business. Do Life. That has kind of a cool ring to it. How how did you guys come up with that?” And I haven’t told this, I don’t think I’ve told this story on the podcast yet. So, I waited for this episode. I’m going to let you share your version of this story first. But it took place in Blackberry Farms. Very picturesque, for those that have been there, they know. On a hike, it was you and your wife, Shawn, my business partner, his wife, Aubrey, and then Sarah and myself. And what ended up happening, not by a design, but it was kind of like the guys were in a little pack, the girls were in a little pack, we’re on this cool hike through the Smoky Hills, the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, I should say. And then we started a conversation because I was just leaving my prior life, and I was kind of in this middle ground of “I don’t really know what I’m going to do next.” But I know it’s going to be in finance. I know it’s going to involve relationships and people. And we were just kind of hashing through a life conversation. So, what’s your version of that conversation?

Justin Donald: Well, and for better or worse, I feel like I was like, “Go! Jump ship! This is your opportunity. Don’t be afraid of it.” This is where the magic happens and the opportunity and possibility is just to the moon. So I’m excited about it. And by the way, this little hike, it’s funny that we call them the foothills because these are pretty big foothills. And then, this was like a five hour hike. I mean, this was a long, long hike. And so, we just got quality time with no devices, and we were brainstorming what the future could look like. I had spent a lot of time kind of figuring out what the next chapter of my life looked like. And I felt really honored to be able to be part of figuring out what your next chapter could look like. And so, it was fun just connecting and playfully thinking about what the future looks like, and what different business models could look like and who would be part of it? And having people that you want to spend time with, like to me, that’s the most important thing is you surround yourself with the people that you enjoy the most. Doing that on a social setting, but also bringing that to the workplace. I know a lot of people say, “Don’t do business with your friends because it can wreck your friendships” and it can. It has. I’ve experienced that. But I think if set up the right way and proper expectations are laid out on, at the onset, I think it can be something beautiful. And in Lifestyle Investor, my closest friends helped me run the business. They were in executive positions. And so, we’ve talked about what it’s like to do life together and then it has expanded, right? To doing business with those that you want to do life with, and then you shortened that. So the thought of where it came up in the conversations and the memory of this, we’ll call it bigger than foothills. Not quite a mountain, but felt pretty mountainous. And then it started raining.

Brad Johnson: Well, I was going to say by about the last hour it was pouring on us. But it was awesome. It was awesome. And it was still one of my favorite memories.

Justin Donald: Well, there’s so much clarity, too. I mean, I feel like decisions were made there by all parties to move in different directions than where they were. Or to trust their gut, their intuition, to move towards what they think it should be or what it might be. And it’s hard sometimes because when it’s the unknown, sometimes it’s hard to pull the trigger. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, you don’t know how hard it’s going to be? And you did. You just moved forward. And it was really cool to see.

Brad Johnson: There’s nothing scarier for most humans than the unknown or change. I mean, I don’t care how many, how adventurous you are, how much you tell yourself, like, one of our mantras at the Johnsons house is get uncomfortable and do hard things. That’s where the growth comes from. That doesn’t make it any easier, though. It’s still hard in the moment. But I do remember vividly in that conversation, something getting thrown around and I was like, “Man. Life’s too short. You should just be doing business with people you want to do life with.” And that just rung in my ears. And so, for those of you that are now listening to the Do Business. Do Life podcast, and obviously those that are familiar with Triad, that’s really our core mission is for our members that we want to better their businesses, we want to better their lives, and we believe there isn’t a balance, or a separation, there’s an integration because we’re one human, right? We don’t lead two separate lives. So, I figured that would be a fun story to get into.

Justin Donald: You bet.

Brad Johnson: Well and like, great transition to Lifestyle Investor because that’s a lot of what you help teach people to do is how do you– I think a lot of entrepreneurs are so busy working in their business, which was, at one point, their dream, like, I’m not going to work for the man anymore or whatever. And then they look up 10 years later and their business has become their life, they’re like a slave to it. And I know one of the things that you unlock in your mastermind group, obviously wrote a lot about this in your book, is how to get back to the business working for you or creating investments that work for you, so you have this passive income or some form of income that gives you freedom again. So, let’s go there. What are your thoughts? What are some big takeaways around those teachings?

Justin Donald: Yeah. Well, I think most people, when they’re young, they have all these dreams, all these things that they could do and who they want to be. And I think that that fades over time. And you get into something and sometimes you feel stuck. I think, for most people, they find themselves a slave to something in some way, a slave to the job that they have, a slave to safety and security, and the known versus the unknown. For those that are entrepreneurs, it’s a slave to their business. Most people say, “Hey, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a business owner,” but really, the business owns you. That’s what I see 9 out of 10 times that they cannot get out. By the way, at first, it probably feels better because maybe they’re making more money. Maybe there’s freedom and autonomy at first, and maybe that’s better than if you work for someone else. But for most people, I think their business owns them or their possessions own them.

And so, it’s like being handcuffed. And the more money that someone makes in this, the more they’re rewarded for it, the more– like, and that’s already a cultural norm where you’re rewarded and recognized for working hard, making more, moving up, having a certain title, having an executive title, or being a CEO, being a co-founder or entrepreneur or whatever it is. And I just find that most people are slave to the business they own. They’re slave to the job that they have. They’re slave to the possessions that they own. They once thought they were owning possessions when really the possessions own them, especially with multiple homes or multiple vehicles or the toys that people can have, the boats, the planes, etc.

And so, I just really wanted to help people buy their time back. I took a year off to get clarity, and we traveled the world. Our family had just an absolute blast, went to 13 countries, and I literally journaled every day. What am I going to do? What inspires me? How do I love spending my time? And I realize the things that I do the most is I love to read. I did it every day, I woke up. I mean, still to this day, I wake up every morning and I read, I love that. I love to teach. So, the more I learn, the more I want to teach it to people that I know. So, I love teaching. I love coaching people, to do the things I’ve done, to create financial freedom. That’s really fun to me.

So, on the learning side, I’m an eternal student. I just want to learn. And then I also love to do deals. And I love when they’re cash flowing. I love when they kind of follow my 10 commandments of passive income and financial freedom, my cash flow commandments, which we can talk more about. But that to me, we’re de-risking a deal. We’re getting a return on our capital. We’re getting our capital back quickly. We’re getting cash flow day one. There’s so many different things that, to me, are important. And when I saw all those, I felt like, “Hey, I would have a lot of fun teaching people to do this. I’d have a lot of fun kind of going through the iterations of what it takes to buy your time back.” Let’s stop worrying about being a billionaire. Let’s focus on being a time billionaire, right?

When people own their time, they don’t have to make as much as they think. And once you get out of that rat race of achievement, of more of optimization and maximization, there’s this beautiful world out there, and it exists always, but most of the time, people can’t experience it until they have solved the financial problem. My life costs X amount of dollars. Once your passive income equals that X amount of dollars, we could start at different tiers. It could be survival income. It could be lifestyle income. It could be earned income. It could be ideal lifestyle income. But once someone solves for that, it’s amazing what opens up.

And as it opens up, when the financial problem is solved, I find people step into their gifts, the things they enjoy most, what fulfills them, utilizing their talents in a way that is totally different than optimizing the dollar, right? It’s optimizing for time. It’s the relationships. They get to be present with the people that matter the most. There’s just so much that comes from shifting from a reactionary life, a life on default, to a proactive life, a life by design. And so, that’s what I love helping people unlock and explore and get out of the rat race, get off of the treadmill. Sometimes, the treadmill is nicer. Like, you supe it up because you have your own business or you’re making a lot of money or whatever it is. So, sometimes it gets even harder to get off because it’s a gold treadmill, it’s a platinum treadmill. It keeps upgrading, but it’s still a treadmill.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I heard a coach one time around this whole concept say, “Well, what would you actually do if you won the lottery?” Because to everything you just hit, it’s like, you know it’s the kid. I look at our kids and it’s like the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? And there’s just this sense of wonder of, like there are no constraints. And I think as an adult, you go to college, then you get that first job, you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got to get the first house. I got to get a decent car.” And then it’s constantly this treadmill that you’re on, to your analogy, and nothing is ever good enough and you’re actually creating these traps for yourself.

And I think that’s just such a freeing question of like, you won the lottery, what would you actually do? That’s like, if you have this level of passive income at those different levels you just talked about, what would you actually want to do? Who would you want to spend time with? What trips would you take? What hobbies would you do? What business would you actually start if you didn’t have to be in a job all the time? And what are some fun you’ve got to, at this point, have some fun case studies or stories of like, here’s this dude making or lady making a bunch of money, but they actually hated their life to once we created this bridge of income, now they’re actually doing something they enjoy showing up to every day? What are some of your favorite stories?

Justin Donald: Yeah, we’ve got tons of them. Both men and women and each in different situations. I mean, what’s really fun for me sometimes is with people that had an exit. And so, two things happen. So, there’s one, I guess there are three different categories. The category that I see most often or I hear about most often is the highly paid business professional or professional, whatever the niche is. Maybe you’re an executive, maybe you’re a lawyer, maybe you’re a doctor or a highly paid salesperson, but someone that has earned income, W-2, but very highly compensated. And so, we have a number of these people that have transitioned from W-2 over here to passive income to becoming a full-time investor. And that is really rewarding. I mean, every walk of life, you name it, we have had people in our community go from, and it’s not to say that being on the W-2 side is bad or is wrong, it’s right for many people. But for someone that knows that they need a change or they know it’s not right for them, they really should pivot and move to the other side, right?

But then we also have the entrepreneurs that they are a slave to their business. They are overworked. They don’t have the ability to pull themselves out. And so, I like being able to help them scale their company, systematize it more, plug in more people that can do the operations, get them out to the bigger picture things, like vision and strategy, while maintaining or growing sales, but show them a path to actually leaving or walking away, or the idea of instead of being the CEO, being a chairman, right? Because there’s still a lot of reward in that, but the demands are a lot less.

And then the third category that we often deal with and experience are the people that had an exit and they’re like, “Uh-oh, what do I do now? I have all this money. I was really good as an entrepreneur. I don’t know what to do as an investor.” Or here’s the other side of it. Because I was so good as an entrepreneur, I’m going to be a really good investor. And that often ends in destruction, right? Because those two skill sets are not the same. There’s a large gap between strong entrepreneur, strong investor. So, there’s education that needs to go in there. But what happens is these people just likely had the biggest exit they’ve ever had. They’re sitting on more cash than they’ve ever had, yet they’re not excited. They’re not feeling good because they don’t know how to get their money to work for them. So, every single week that goes by, every month that goes by, the total in their bank account is dwindling. They’re living life and the total is dropping. And so, they actually often live life through a scarce lens of I need to hold on this. I’m spending too much money. I don’t know how to create more money.

And so, for me, some of the most rewarding things are taking these people that are in a scarce mindset or in a place where they feel totally ill equipped and giving them the tools to solve any of those problems that we just discussed. We have people in every single side of the aisle. We had one of our guys that had a monster nine-figure exit. And you would think nine figures, you’re set for life. But if you have a divorce and then you get into some bad deals, you have taxes, by the way, that you have to pay on that big exit, so after those three events, we have seen people that their total where you’re like, oh, set for life, dwindles down to definitely not set for life. I mean, some of you might hear 10, 15, 20 million, you might be like, oh, set for life. Not for someone that’s lifestyles of $1.5 million a year lifestyle, right? I mean, that person’s going to spend all their money in a matter of years if they don’t fix it.

And so, my job, my goal, my mission, and with this specific example, I was able to help this individual create that $1.5 million in passive income, which is really fun and really exciting and really rewarding. So, everyone has a different story, everyone has a different path, but there are things that need to be solved for every step of the way. And I just love helping people solve it. And by the way, it’s not always me. We’ve got this community of brilliant people. About 20% to 30% of them are high income earning professionals. Then you’ve got the other 70% to 80% that are entrepreneurs, probably half of that having had an exit and half of that still in their business. And so, it’s three distinct groups of people that make up the Lifestyle Investor Mastermind, there are about 130 of us. And it’s really just fun watching everyone collaborate and learn from one another.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, fun fact, we shared the Blackberry farm story where you were really there at that transitional point for me, where I went from a W-2 employee that was a highly compensated salesperson really. And I really didn’t even know at that stage what the future of entrepreneurship looked like for me, but I did a very similar thing where I took a few months off and really wanted to get crystal clear on that next thing for me. But also, I mean, COVID’s all happening. This was March 2020. And I remember, it was like maybe a month into COVID. And if you remember dates, like throw them in there. But we’re like, all of us were feeling a little constrained. And you and I are very social people that enjoy lots of relationships. And I don’t know who came up with the idea, but we’re like, “Let’s do a Zoom happy hour.”

And so, we popped some good wine. You were on there. I was on there. Shawn was on there. I remember Ryan Levesque was on there, Ryan Casey. There’s probably a few names I’m forgetting, but it was almost this Zoom happy hour. And then naturally, we gravitated toward just talking investments and investing and we started talking about real estate investments. We got into mobile homes, we got into some other stuff, and we were just kind of nerding out on investments while drinking some good wine and having some fellowship. And I don’t know how much of that really colored the Lifestyle Investor journey because you kind of just took some of that and then it became this mastermind. So, I feel like I was kind of at the ground floor, a little bit of Lifestyle Investor is. Is that fair?

Justin Donald: Yeah. You 100% were at the ground floor. In fact, there’s probably many shoutouts and bits of praises that you deserve because for my podcast, The Lifestyle Investor, I don’t know if I for sure would have started that without your prompting to start it and you talking about how much you love having a podcast and how you think that my personality is a real good fit for it and how I should just do six podcasts, see if I like it, and then keep going. And so, that was really the motivation I needed on the podcast front. So, what’s cool about that is the Lifestyle Investor is now a top 1% of all downloaded podcasts. And I don’t think that would be here or would have had the same, I don’t know if it would be here had it not been for your prompting.

John Kane, who’s a mutual friend of ours, dear friend of mine, he’s the guy that really pushed me over the edge to write the book, The Lifestyle Investor, because I had kicked the can down the road for 10-plus years. I’ve had friends saying, “Hey, you should write that book. That book just captured the stuff that you’re doing.” And I just was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know if this is important enough. I don’t know if people will like it. I don’t even know. I’m not an author.” And I kept kicking the can down the road. And I remember we had a conversation walking around Town Lake here in Austin, and he said, “Justin, if you die and your daughter never learns all these things that you have figured out in the realm of investing, how are you going to feel?” And that was the gut punch that got me to commit to writing the book.

So, the next day, I started writing the book, which I didn’t have a big network then. I didn’t have a big following. I didn’t have much of anything. I had a bunch of friends that I emailed, and I was like, “Oh, pretty please. If this sounds interesting to you, would you consider buying a copy of it?” I mean, I probably emailed 200 people max. I didn’t have a list or a following, but there were so many profound and impactful stories that happened with people reading it that it went viral on social media, ended up becoming a number one Wall Street Journal bestseller and USA Today bestseller.

And then, as of last year, I don’t know if you know this, but as of last year, January 2023, it became a top 1% of all books ever sold, period, which is pretty incredible. And the thing I’m most proud of is that all the proceeds of the Lifestyle Investor book go to fight human trafficking. So, we’ve been able to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of those efforts with the Tim Tebow Foundation and Love Justice International. So, that to me, I had two really good friends that got me to write a book and to start a podcast. And then, let’s tie a bow on this with our social happy hour. And I remember thinking, this is so fun. Let’s keep doing it. Let’s actually take it up a notch. What would it look like if I brought a sponsor on here?

And we started vetting deals together, and then I created my list of questions, and then we’d all ask, I had my itemized questions that I would ask and then everyone asked their questions, and then we would decide if we want a deal, do a deal. And then it was, “Hey, let’s try and negotiate.” I didn’t know if it would work, but I said, “I’m going to try and negotiate preferred terms because they’re a bunch of us.” So, if all of us invest and we could get a good deal because they give us some sort of discount for volume, that could be cool. And then we started getting all these really good deals. So, then we started getting access to deals that we shouldn’t get access to. We were able to negotiate preferred terms.

And I remember you saying, “Justin, I think you are on to something here. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know exactly what it looks like, but what we’re doing right here, people would pay to do this.” And that just kind of stuck in my head because we were having fun. I mean, it’s really like just an investment club, happy hour thing for a long time. I mean, I did it for free for a really long time. And you and many other friends were like, “Justin, I would pay you. This is valuable information. You should charge money.” And that’s really where the Lifestyle Investor Mastermind started.

I did a one-day event, invited a bunch of friends. I didn’t want it to be too big because it was the first event I’d ever done, but I invited, I think, 20 or 21 people and just presented everything that I knew on mobile home park investing and passive income and whole life insurance and just everything that I could think of on getting your money to work for you and creating financial freedom and buying your time back. And I said, “Hey, if you like this, I think I’m going to do this once a month.” But I wanted to throw a high price point out there because I didn’t want this to be something that the masses did. I wanted it to be high price point, people who are serious, people that are pot committed because they invested and keep it to a small group of people.

And I never would have imagined that 18 of the people of that 20 or 21 people would sign up for it, and that it would just continue to grow. I mean, we capped it for a while at 100 people. I mean, technically, we were capped at the first 50, and then everyone’s like, “Well, open it for more. This is great.” And then we kept it at 100 and we sat at 100 for a while, and all the members were like, “Hey, let’s not limit it.” And this will never be a big thing. I don’t want it to be huge. I don’t want it to be Tiger 21 or anything like that. I like it being a small group, but we lifted the 100-person cap and we’re on a waitlist right now, right around 125, 130 people, which is, it’s cool to see how big it’s grown, but not in a million years would I have ever guessed that the stuff that I enjoy talking about, that I find important, that I geek out about are topics that other people would enjoy and that would resonate so much with them.

Brad Johnson: I’m proud of you, man. You influenced me a lot during that really pivotal moment in my life and gave me some great advice because you kind of had a scary exit from Cutco, a little before me. And so, I took a lot of your words of wisdom. And it’s good to hear the nudge on the podcast because I remember we talked the other day, and I’ve been pretty heads down the last three years, and that’s one of my goals this year is to really make sure I’m investing time in friendships and relationships that, honestly, it’s been that season, that early season at Triad that I’ve sacrificed some of that.

And I brought up your podcast. I was like, “Dang, bro, not only did you take my advice, you blew this thing out of the water.” You’ve got some very high-powered guests. If you’re sitting here and listening and some of this resonates with you, definitely go check out. We’ll put it in the show notes, Justin’s podcast, The Lifestyle Investor. He’s got great stuff, great conversations. He’s a curious guy. And I promise you’ll learn if you go check out an episode or two. So, yeah, it’s awesome to see you, man. And by the way, shoutout to Charlie who produces both of our podcasts and who, honestly, Jon Vroman introduced me to, because he was doing Jon’s podcast, Front Row Dads, back in the day. So, it’s funny how all these networks all come together over time.

Justin Donald: I love it. It’s so cool. And by the way, I’m so glad you started your podcast again. I was hoping to return the favor of you really encouraging me to start a podcast and then you had a podcast previously that you stopped doing, and I was trying to be the friend that’s like, “Hey, when are you going to get this one up and running?” So, I’m so fired up that you’re back in it because you’re a great podcast host. You ask wonderful questions, you’re super curious. And on so many levels, you have impacted my life and my family’s life for the better. So, I’m proud of you for what you’ve built. And I just think it’s fun that we get to do this together.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Thanks, man. It was actually a piece of my life that was missing. You jump into it and let’s see. It was just over two years in the Triad before I finally had the bandwidth to come up for air. And I really like, you and I are very similar. We’re both Enneagram 7s. We both love people, love relationships, and we’re naturally curious. We want to learn. So, we’ve got a lot of similarities there. And it’s like, podcasting is like this, it’s this secret hack to where it’s like, “Wait, I can just have an hour or hour 15 conversation with this author, this investor, this person.” And it’s like this personal mentoring session. Then you just record it and put it out to the world. And I’m like, selfishly, I would do a podcast if nobody listened because it’s like this mastermind session that the platform of a podcast allows you to have. So, what are some of your takeaways, because you’ve now been podcasting for a few years. What has it done? Let’s just go to life before the podcast for Justin, life after the podcast, what’s it done for you?

Justin Donald: Well, I mean, I think there’s the obvious of when you have a podcast, for better or worse, you tend to be in people’s eyes, be a little more high profile, which I don’t care about any of that. But it helps me get access to people that I may not otherwise have access to, right? So now people are like, “Oh! You’ve got a big podcast. I’d love to be on that podcast.” So now I’m interviewing people that I feel like, I don’t even belong to have a conversation with you, but I get to. That’s really cool. And for me, it does, it scratches the itch of, I want to learn, I’m so curious, I’m so fascinated by how people discover their gifts and create success and earn the income that they do, and build the business that they do, and invest the way that they do. I mean I just, I love it, so I can’t imagine not doing it because it really is one of the more satisfying and rewarding things I do. Because it really shows up to what I value most, which I value learning and teaching. And the more that I learn from people, the more topics and ammunition I have to teach the people in my life that matter most to me.

Brad Johnson: And I’d also put just knowing you, you value relationships at a high level, and a podcast puts relationships on steroids because it brings these new people into your life. And, not every person you have on your show, you’re like, “Oh yeah! I can’t wait to reconnect with them.” But many, I found, many of them have become some of my closest friends,John Ruhlin. And so here’s the power of a podcast. John Ruhlin, I meet him through my prior podcast. He’s like, “Hey, you’re a dad. I’ve got a buddy named Jon Vroman. He runs this group Front Row Dads, you should go.” So, I went. Met Jon Vroman, and then the next round I meet you. So, had it not been for the podcast, I don’t know if we’d be having this conversation today, which is pretty insane.

Justin Donald: So true. And we’ve gotten a chance to travel all over, experience all kinds of stuff. Host wine events at each of our homes from a group that you discovered out in Tuscany and Italy. I mean, so many cool experiences. I just love it. And I know that there are many more waiting for us in the future.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, for sure. Well, I know our time is getting towards an end because I’ve got a junior high basketball game that I do not want to be late for, obviously. So, you kind of touched on pieces of this before, Justin, when we were kind of talking about that Blackberry hike, Do Business, Do Life. But being the Do Business, Do Life show, I would love to hear what is Justin Donald’s official definition of Do Business, Do Life. What’s that mean to you?

Justin Donald: Well, I mean, that means the world to me. It means: Be intentional with who you’re spending time with. Be intentional with who you’re building businesses with, and pick the people that you just love and adore. And maybe it’s people that you feel like you can mentor them up, but maybe it’s people that you just love spending time with. You can’t wait to hang out with. I find that when I work with people that I absolutely love, I want to go the extra mile. I want to invest the extra time. I want to do the extra cool thing outside of the workplace. I want to do all the things because I value the relationships. So for me, it’s everything, because these are the people I want to spend the most time with. And I also have found that if I do a mini podcast, if you will, like a mini interview where I really get to know people and really go deep, the better I know someone, the more I really enjoy, appreciate and love that person. And it makes me want to go, so much, so many more miles extra for them on their behalf. So, I think there’s no better name for a show and no better motto to do business. It’s an honor that our conversation that we were able to talk through this and distill it down to this and the impact that it’s been able to have. But this is just the way, I can’t imagine not living life this way. This is just so wonderful to me. It’s a precious experience. I can’t ever imagine doing life any other way.

Brad Johnson: Well said. Well, my man, I’ve been looking forward to this all week. I always enjoy our conversation. So, thanks for grabbing some time and sharing your wisdom with the audience. And I know there will be many more of these conversations in the future, some recorded, some not but really appreciate you.

Justin Donald: Some over wine.

Brad Johnson: Probably more than a couple, for sure. Well, my man, till next time, appreciate you. Thanks so much.

Disclosure

This episode is for informational purposes only. Neither Brad nor Triad Partners endorses Lifestyle Investing Mastermind or investment strategies. Brad is not a member of the Lifestyle Investing Mastermind. Each individual should make their own decision about their investments with the help of qualified professionals.

These conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies, concepts and tools that could be incorporated into the advisory practice, advisors are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed is in accordance with any and all regulatory and compliance responsibilities and obligations.

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