In any industry, if you want to be the best, you have to spend time with the best, read the best, watch the best, live and breathe the best. It might sound extreme, but it’s just true. In my Signature Coaching Group, you can achieve elite status by having the highest net-to-gross, the best CSI, being a leader…basically consistently performing at a high level. When you have elite status, it’s a different kind of experience. It’s about hanging out with talented managers and having the opportunity to participate in life-changing experiences. 

When I brought two elite members of the group, Joe and Damon, to talk shop with me on Service Drive Revolution, they were told to come in wearing steel-toed boots. If you want to know more about that, you have to give the episode a listen here

To give you some context, Damon’s story of how he got to the top is pretty interesting and he definitely didn’t follow your average career path. He started in the auto industry after a long stint in finance. It was good until it wasn’t, which was when the financial institution he was working for closed its doors. He found a finance manager position at a dealership and did that for about a year, but he burnt out pretty quick and decided to re-evaluate. He was going through a lot of personal stuff and needed a change, so he decided to into service writing. Better hours, predictable schedule, more financial stability because it isn’t a commission-based position. After about another year, he decided he didn’t want to work for other people anymore and he bought the shop. It was a small franchise shop, but a big step nonetheless. He thought buying the shop would give him the freedom he was looking for, but it didn’t so he sold it. He was unemployed for all of four hours before he took a position as a service manager at bigger car dealership, where he killed it and continued to get recruited to bigger and better positions.

Joe’s story is very different. Being a tech is in his blood. His dad was a mechanic and he started fixing cars in high school. It’s something he always knew he wanted to do. When he was about 25, he got tired of the grunt work and started as a service writer. The owner of the shop, an old Italian guy, took Joe under his wing and taught him the dealership business and how to make it go. At the time, he knew that he was going to continue his career in the auto industry, but he had no idea how far it would take him and how high he could go within it. He stuck with it at that dealership for awhile, eventually becoming a service manager, but decided to move on at age 40 when the team dynamics went south. It was a family-run business, and family dynamics can get tricky if you aren’t careful. He moved on to a dealership in Florida where he’s been absolutely crushing it since.

In this episode, we went behind the curtain, so to speak, to give you some insight into our experience–all over cigars and tequila, of course. 

To start, I asked the guys what advice they’d give to their younger selves–what they were confused about, what issues they could have avoided if they knew what they know now. The first was this:

“I would never listen to the line ‘We’ve always done it that way.’”

That kind of mentality is rampant in the auto industry and it’s a huge issue. It breeds complacency and stops people from trying new things or sharing ideas because they know this will likely be the answer they get from the people above them. In this industry, as many of us know all too well, you often see people getting trained by the person above them, who was trained by the person above them, who was actually untrained and may not be doing the work well or efficiently. No matter how often you get that line, you can’t stop trying to level up the system and your work. Joe’s career really took off when he started at the Florida dealership and his boss told him the exact opposite–that he knew what they were doing wasn’t working and he wanted Joe to find ways to improve their work. It was a huge catalyst for his success and it also leads directly into the next piece of advice…

“Don’t be afraid to fail.”

This isn’t anything new, but it’s worth repeating, over and over again. Fear of making mistakes, especially early on in your career, can and will hold you back if you aren’t careful. Why? When you’re at the beginning of your career, you feel like you have something to prove to someone else. You want to succeed because you want to prove your worth. So you follow “the book” and try to get the numbers. It makes sense, but that means that you aren’t trying anything innovative. Anything that might be really effective…or not. Over time, you’ll see that the “failures” are worth it. More often than not, they’re outweighed by successes that you wouldn’t have achieved if you hadn’t tried something new. Every time you “fail”, you learn something–what not to do next time in that particular scenario or what you could do differently to make it work. Which leads us to…

“Don’t take things personally–bounce back and keep moving.”

When you decide to take risks in order to succeed, you’re bound to get feedback that isn’t always positive. If you can take the emotion out of it and just learn from the experience, you’re gonna get a lot further than if you focus on your pride and ego and get stuck feeling angry or ashamed. Damon put it perfectly: “We let our ego get in the way of seeing clearly through a failure and [we can’t] decipher the information that we can get out of it to get better.” If you decide to try something new and it doesn’t go well, you can wallow in the mistake or you can learn from it. It’s as simple as that. 

This is just the beginning of the advice that Joe, Damon and I share in this episode. We also talked about a famous bet that Joe and I had when we first met in New Orleans that proved a lot of these points. We can’t get into all of that here but definitely listen to the podcast if you want to hear about it. 

We also talked books–what we’re reading right now, why we’re reading it, and what we’ve learned. Here are the key takeaways, though I highly recommend listening to the episode for the full rundown:

  • The Presidents’ Club by Nancy Gibbs: This is Damon’s pick, which I actually recommended to him. It’s about how presidents pass down wisdom down the line and help each other learn and make decisions. They even have a literal clubhouse across the street from the White House so they have a place to go together. It’s pretty remarkable that the highest office in the country operates like this and there’s a lot every leader can learn from their experience. We also talk about where Trump fits into the dynamic…
  • Unfu*k Yourself by Gary Bishop: Joe’s pick is about the ways in which we all screw ourselves over in our own minds and how to stop doing that. For example, many of us are always trying to predict the future, worrying about what may or could happen, but what’s the point? What we need to do is figure out what we want to do and make it happen–don’t leave it up to chance. If something out of control gets in the way, you’ll deal with it. That’s just one of the many takeaways from Bishop’s book.
  • The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman: As you may know, many successful people create something of an alter ego that embodies the success that they want to achieve. I have one (I’ll tell you about him in the episode) and you should have one too. Herman talks about how to develop an alter ego that is effective in getting where you want to be.
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins: Goggins is former military and this book is about his leadership within that context. It reminds me of Jocko Willink’s epic book on leadership Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Don’t miss it.
  • Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain by Danny Goldberg: This one is by Nirvana’s manager. It’s not as clearly business-related as the others on this list, but I couldn’t put it down. It gives you a behind the scenes look at Cobain’s life and if you’re really entrepreneurially and success-minded, I bet you’ll find that a lot of the lessons and themes can relate to your life and business. Plus, it’s just incredibly interesting.

There are tons of good books out there that all business leaders should read. If you have a suggestion, send it my way here. We might just talk about it on the podcast if it makes the cut.

This episode was so good that we broke it up into two. If you’re ready for more, head on over to Part 2 and give it a listen.