Gregg Clunis learned most of what he knows about persistence, strategy, personal development, and success from watching his immigrant parents struggle to achieve their dreams. Originally from Jamaica, Gregg and his family followed his father, who had been a professor and police officer in their native country, and worked as a migrant farm laborer in their new home.
Gregg was attracted to the self-help world, and quickly discovered that the tactics and messages were often at odds with his perspective, and that of his generation in general.
Little was evidence-based, but instead reflected the personal experience of the “guru” who was sharing his or her particular brand of wisdom.
There was little acknowledgment of systemic barriers to achievement, whether economic, racial, or geographical.
And a lot of the make-money advice was just plain yucky.
In the gap between what he needed and what was being offered, Gregg saw an opportunity and a calling: to rationalize and share the best of the self-help tradition with young people who want to make a good life for themselves and a positive impact on the planet.
The theme of much of his work is also the name of his book and podcast: “Tiny Leaps, Big Changes.”
“Tiny Leaps” refers to the small, simple consistent things we do every day, as opposed to heroic sprints and wholesale lifestyle change. Tiny leaps aren't sexy. They aren't glorious or brag-worthy. They aren't even particularly Instagrammable.
But they work, and they require both pride and humility, resolve and realism, effort and acceptance.
We talk “inside baseball” for a while, reflecting on our similar journeys through the worlds of self-help and Internet marketing. And we also look at the essence of habit change, and how we can make it easy by allowing it to be easy.
Gregg Clunis, welcome to The Plant Yourself podcast.
Thank you so much for having me.
Yeah, for those who are watching the video, you have a really cool chair.
Yeah, this this chair actually caused a fight with my girlfriend because it's quote unquote, so hideous. But, you know, it's the most comfortable chair I've ever owned. So I'm a big fan.
Well, it's got like red and black stripes. It's sort of gamer chair or something.
Yeah, it's a gamer chair. I figured I spend just as much time sitting and working on things as someone who likes streams on Twitch or something like that. So may as well go ergonomic.
OK, let's well it's got a very Sith vibe to it so I'm a little intimidated.
Well I mean has that effect as well. It's beneficial for sales calls.
So we connected because of your work on helping people change habits, change behaviors for big goals and your foreword motto is tiny leaps, big changes. Just tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are, what you do, and we can kind of put that in that kind of context.
Yeah. So I am I'm an immigrant. I moved to the U.S. when I was eight and I was originally born in Jamaica and my family sort of came over here for the reason most immigrants do. Right. There's far more opportunity. I think at the time the economy in Jamaica was crashing. And my father, when we're in Jamaica, ran a number of businesses. He was a police officer, a professor, but there really just wasn't anything there for him at that time.
That's a really unusual combination, isn't it?
Yeah, he's done - it's actually really funny. We're very similar in the sense that we tend to sort of chase whatever is the middle of that Venn diagram between opportunity and interest. And so he's done so much in his life that have nothing to do with each other purely because he was interested in that moment. But yeah, so so we we moved to New York. I grew up upstate New York, and it was that typical immigrant story of starting with virtually nothing.
My dad's first sort of position and job in the US was picking apples on an apple orchard, essentially a migrant worker. And and through his hard work, my mother's hard work, the choices that they made, they were able to not get to any insane levels of wealth, but but create comfort for myself, my sister, and create opportunity for us.
I don't think you were like eight years old when you moved to. Yeah, I was eight years old.
What was the what was the lesson that you drew or were were offered about your dad, who's this obviously incredibly talented, multifaceted, high achieving person picking apples?
So it's funny because I didn't know originally that that was his his first role here. So he came a year before we did his his job was to get here, find some footing to land on, get a house, get a stable job, and then he would sort of send for us to come up and get started. And so we didn't see each other for about a year. And it's only maybe around teenage years to early adulthood that I really learned sort of what his life was like prior to us getting here.
And it was that that was his opportunity at the time. We had some family members here, I think, like my aunt was here prior to him, but that was really it. And he didn't even live in the same area. So it wasn't that big of a benefit, but that was the opportunity that was in front of him. He took that and put everything he had into it. He knew that at the end of that season, because if you're not familiar, oftentimes migrant workers at the end of whatever season it is they're brought up for, they have to go back.
There's just no more work for them. He knew that by the end of the season that was potentially going to happen unless he made himself valuable enough to somebody. And through that work, he found the opportunity. He started as a line worker in a bottling plant. That bottle like apple juice, grape juice and so forth, and distributed throughout the Hudson Valley. That gave him sort of his full time gig here and some stability and ability to pay rent and all of that stuff, which is when we came up.
So my first understanding of his life here was at the plant. I never knew anything before until later on in life, hmm. And when you did find out, what was your reaction? Not shocked, honestly, because I grew up and that's I will always be so, so grateful for being an immigrant especially. I'm lucky in the sense that I got to watch the immigrant story play out. But because of my age, I didn't have to personally do it.
And so I just got a front seat to seeing the choices they made, seeing the level of effort and hard work that they put in. And so I grew up knowing in the back of my head and in the front of my head. Hey. They are making choices for me, like this is for me, this is for my sister, this is for them, this is for the potential life that we can have that was always there for me.
So and there were periods when I was in middle school or high school that I didn't see my parents for a period of time because of their work schedules. My mom originally in Jamaica, she was a stay at home mom. Once we moved here, she started working in a nursing home, helping out the nurses there, and she would work from 7:00 a.m. straight back until midnight every day. And so I rarely saw her, except for right before I went on the bus and we lived close enough to the school that I could just walk.
So I didn't need them to drive me anywhere.
And and my dad, he worked similar, except he worked overnights, but the same sort of 12 to 14 hour shifts. So I knew what they were doing and how hard it was. So when I found out what he had to do prior to that, it wasn't a shock to me. It was obvious. Yeah, of course. That's how he got here. I just had never taken the time to think about it.
So what did those lessons do to kind of propel you into your career, like where you think you know? Because I know, like on my on my family, like everyone were immigrants. Like my mother was an immigrant. My wife is an immigrant. And there's a different way of thinking about, like, what I'm entitled to or what I get to go for or how much I can sort of self indulge.
Did you have a sense of like, you know, this is what's open to me or like what are what are my obligations to to my parents, to myself into the future? So I I grew up and this is true for myself and I have a group of cousins that are roughly around the same age. We grew up together like siblings and their parents moved here a little bit after my my parents did so similar experience across the board. And we have conversations pretty regularly about what that generation did for us, because we grew up with the sense that we were starting at the starting line, like we got to the starting line as a result of all the work that they did because they didn't start at the starting line.
They started outside of the arena somewhere and they did all this work to get us into the arena, to the starting line. And so I've never once felt disadvantaged in any way. I've never once felt like anything that is in my life or has been in my life is is going to hold me back in any way, because in my mind, I'm at the starting line. With that said, I also and I have this conversation with my cousins all the time, we have this benefit of knowing what was required to get us here.
And so there has always been this sense of a debt that is owed. And that's not something my parents ever put on me. That's not something my family ever put on me. That's something that I internalized as a child, seeing what they had to go through and the choices they had to make, because it just made logical sense to me. Of course, I need to, quote unquote pay that back. And to me, paying that back means showing them this was worth it.
So I've never felt like I wasn't at the starting line. I feel like they got us there. But I've always felt like the the potential distance I could run needed to be further than the other people at the starting line simply because of how much work was required to get me there.
Mm hmm. So it was like you have a you live within history.
Yeah. Yeah. And that's. Believe it or not, that's something I've had to talk through a lot at therapy because that can get dangerous very quickly. That can turn into overworking yourself, that can turn into falling too far into that hustle, hustle, hustle mentality. But it's both a gift and a curse in that I think I'm capable of so much in this world and I'm just getting started. But also, I need to remind myself that my parents were never doing it so that I could prove anything to them.
They did it because they wanted to. And that's that was their choice. And now I need to take the baton wherever I take it, without that pressure. So it's it's a balance you have to try and strike.
Mhm. So where have you taken it so far. So currently I host a podcast called Tiny Leaps Make Changes.
I wrote my first book by the same name that published last year through Center Street Publishing. And it's actually really interesting because that podcast book turning into a podcast network, we're really growing it out as a larger media company in the personal development and self-help space that started in response to what I felt was a dangerous position for the self-help space to be in. So I got into self-help when I was 13 by reading a Tony Robbins book, and it really defined my my teenage years.
And a lot of ways it helped me solidify what I wanted to be, who I thought I could be, all of those things. But a few years ago, I noticed that self-help started to get very and you could argue that it always was this. The minute it became an industry, it it became very. Focused on saying things that sound good and that you can sort of immediately have that gut agree in agreement with OK, that that's right.
Of course I should work harder. Of course I should manage my time better. Of course I should build habits. That's easy to say yes to, but never diving into the the the depth of that, never diving into the practicality of that.
And it's designed this way. The only way that an industry can exist is if there is a reason to spend money in it. If you tell people exactly what to do on the surface, they have no reason to spend money and go to the events and buy the books and so on, so forth. So the industry is designed a certain way. But what that does is it creates privilege. It creates a scenario where self-help becomes something that you need to be of a certain level or status to be able to participate in, because you need to have the expendable income to pay the 10 grand to go to a Tony Robbins event.
Or you need to even buying a book can be challenging for a lot of people out there. And those are the people that need self-help the most. Those are the people that need these ideas the most because they're the ones actually struggling and dealing with with serious things. So I felt that where the industry was wasn't actually serving the people that needed it. And instead it was designed for sort of this middle class group that probably were going to be fine, regardless of whether or not they were in it.
However, and this was the key thing that led to me starting tiny leaps. There was no acknowledgement of that. There was no recognition by the people creating in this space that there was an inherent privilege built into personal development and self-help. And so you created a scenario where someone who is not quite in the same position. And by the way, privilege can be as simple as I have a good relationship with my parents and can go crash on their couch if I fail.
Think that's a privilege. That's not something everyone has. But without acknowledging that someone who doesn't have that relationship, someone who doesn't have that level of money, someone who doesn't have that privilege, is going to make a decision based on this guidebook and template that you're laying out, not have the same degree of of opportunity and privileges to fall back on and end up in a significantly worse place and scratching their head, why didn't it work? And then they start to feel like they're bad and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
So I started the podcast to counter that.
I have so many different reactions. I kind of want to, like, split time and go into four different conversations simultaneously. But the first thought is so I. I wasn't 13 when I encountered Tony Robbins.
I was probably in my early 30s and I found I found it remarkable and empowering and it turned me into an asshole.
And I can I can remember like walking.
I was in a park and I saw somebody whom I perceived as like either you go down on their luck or homeless. And my thought was, boy, if that person only knew how to change their state.
Yeah. And and I and I think, like, when you're talking about the middle class, like self-help is for the middle class. Self-Help is also for the upper classes to justify why they're the upper classes. Yeah. Like, oh, I have all these great habits and I because of my position, because of my habits and not the other way around. Yeah.
It's a there's a massive and I I've only recently started to toe the line of getting into politics on my podcast and I'm very open with my positions on things and where I sort of align. I consider myself to be a Bernie Sanders style progressive.
But I know what I saw when I saw your video on that. I'm like, OK, I want to talk to him on the podcast.
We can be friends and I always try to be open about that. But there is so much in personal development that honestly does come back to politics and where you cast your vote and who you cast it for. So it really is something that unfortunately has been co-opted to target people who have money simply because it is an industry and that's how you make money is selling to people who have money. And so all the messaging and books and so on, so forth, they don't acknowledge it, but it leaves that bottom group out who doesn't have the expendable income to attend the events or to go to the meditation rooms or to do X, Y, Z and that.
And that really is an issue, in my opinion.
Well, and the you know, I I wasn't in the self-help world that I spent a bunch of years in the Internet marketing world. Oh, you and me both, brother. Right. So very similar. You know, the Internet marketers taught the self-help gurus like how to structure, you know, pyramids and funnels and auto responders. And like what I learned was, you know, you keep emailing them until they buy or die. Yeah.
And there's this sense, like, OK, so and we're going to do an 80 20 on them. Right.
So the bottom you know, the hoi polloi of your list are basically worthless. And we we're thinking about them as worthless, like, oh, you know, how big is your list? How many hyper responses do you have? And, you know, even as we're talking about, like the power of human development, we are essentially sending this message of you are as valuable to me as your willingness to give me your money.
Yeah. Yeah. One of the things that I try to avoid when I when I originally had that initial reaction that led to starting tiny leaps, I remember I was sitting on a train in New York City where I lived with my girlfriend for roughly 10 years. And we're heading to this event uptown. I was reading a new book that was actually published by someone I still to this day consider to be a friend, which is where the recognition of their privilege came from, because I knew their background to a decent extent.
I knew roughly all the people that they mentioned in the book to a decent extent. And I noticed that none of those things were mentioned, which is sort of what made it snap into place for me. So I was reading this book and I just felt like, you know what this is dangerous with especially in today's world, which I think is a good thing, an amazing thing, that anyone can publish a book through Amazon, anyone can start a podcast, anyone can publish a YouTube channel.
That's amazing, ultimately. But that also means that anyone can say anything and choose to leave out anything that they want to. So I felt that something needed to exist to fight back against this this very privileged approach to personal development and focus instead on what is it that we know actually works? How can we prove that and how can we make it as simple as possible and accessible as possible? So there's a reason that I do not sell coaching. There are plenty of people over the years my podcast gets we are currently about 20 million total downloads.
We get about half a million a month. There are plenty of people who have said, hey, I will pay you this many thousands to be my coach for a month and I will not do it because that's just playing into the exact same situation that we find ourselves in, where if somebody can pay me six grand to be their life coach, they're probably fine. Like, yeah, maybe they they're struggling with things or things they can deal with.
I'm not trying to downplay that at all, but they are probably going to be just fine regardless of whether or not they spend that money on me. So instead, my approach is let's build a media company for this group that isn't there, for this group that isn't as privileged and needs that help the most so that we're able to deliver as much content and value to them as possible without having to charge them directly as much money as would need to be charge in order to sustain that business.
So so that's what I'm currently working on.
So how do you how do you handle the inherent contradictions in getting funded by one group and not having their agenda, influence or pollute the purity of what you're trying to do, reaching people who don't have that kind of privilege?
Like like I'm thinking like I you know, I'm very jealous of your numbers of all those downloads I've had. Well, I'm not like this is going to be podcast like 425 or something, and I'm nowhere near that. So I'm like, I should try to convince Greg to be my coach and teach me how to do that.
But like, there are a whole bunch of things that I decided not to do. Like I don't you know, I don't I decided I didn't want to take any advertising on the podcast. I didn't want to do any affiliate deals, like promoting things and getting kickbacks for them, which, you know, I think it's fine. I just I didn't want to do it myself and I and I find myself looking back after seven and a half years thinking, was I so pure and my motives that there's millions of people I haven't reached as a result.
Right. And I'm wondering how you navigate, you know, the business within a capitalist system and having these motives to help people who don't have the means to pay for stuff.
Yeah. So I almost view it as a redistribution. So what I mean is, first of all, I have very hard rules in House where any brands I work with, regardless of how much they're paying me, regardless of the size of the deal and any factors, they have zero control over editorial. And I've had situations in the past where I published a an episode that had a sponsor attached to it, and they wrote back saying that they wanted the episode to be about a certain topic that was related to the sponsor, which is seems like an easy thing to say yes.
To like, oh, I still get to choose what I say, yada, yada, yada. I sent their money back and told them, no, I'm not doing that. Now, if I choose to make the two match short, if we choose that in-house, totally fine. But if my editor. Royal calendar says on this date, we're having this topic published and the sponsor wants that date, I'm not then ever going to change the topic to fit the sponsor.
So there are some very hard and fast rules that I have not and will not break on on that secondary is there is, of course, a need to bring in revenue. And for many years prior to figuring out how to accurately monetize the show and bring in a steady source of income, that that allowed me to stop doing client work. I did do consulting and primarily around, never around like coaching or on goals or anything like that. Always around.
This is how I grew my podcast, because that to me was a completely different group of people, completely different audience, unrelated to anything I'm trying to do. So I did that for a long time in order to make ends meet while I built the show, and that allowed me not to charge anything to my listeners for a very long period of time. Now we're transitioning into this larger media company model where it is advertiser based and it's a community based meaning.
There are people in my audience who can pay five dollars a month to support the show and subsidize it for the people who can't pay five dollars a month. And so the show will always be free. But for the people who want to get additional degrees of access to me and additional degrees of access to the rest of the community, I am building out those structures to make that possible. And so I think ultimately, at the end of the day, we do live in a capitalist system and there is always going to be a degree of how can we create value, receive value for that creation in order to keep things running and growing and be able to better reach more people.
Because if I can hire three people to handle outreach for me, I know for a fact we're going to reach millions more people than we do right now like that. That is a real thing we have to debate. But I think having those rules and knowing this is what I'm willing to do and this is what I'm not willing to do, that's ultimately where it comes down to. And when I say I'm not personally not willing to do like life coaching or high ticket coaching to my audience, that's not knocking anyone who does like they make their their money, how they make their money.
And as far as I'm concerned, everyone deserves to excuse me, deserves to secure the bag in whatever way they do. But that's not what I want to do. That's not the people who can afford that, aren't the people I want to serve. And so I don't ever even create that opportunity.
So let's let's let's talk about the content of what you share. How how did you navigate and filter the world of self-help to figure out, like, what actually works? Well, it's not just, you know, ego based or someone have an idea and they're just, you know, their ego is attached to it. And despite new evidence like how how did you go through the process of deciding here's here's what's useful?
Yeah. So for me, this started in the overall structure of the show and how I presented myself. So I made it very clear from day one that I am not an expert in any of the areas that I talk about. So on the show, I cover six main areas your fitness, nutrition, finances, career relationships and your mental health. And I chose to cover all six and sort of have episodes talking about all six. To further emphasize, there is no way I could possibly be an expert in six different things.
I just would not be physically possible. So I positioned myself as a student. And that also was helpful because when I started the show I was twenty three and so I really had no interest in being this twenty three year old pretend guru. So I positioned it as this is me trying to pass through what is out there to find the things that work and then sharing essentially my, my diary of, of what's working an additional step I took in the beginning that I still utilize but less than I did then was actually pulling up research documents.
So it was a very science driven approach to what is working. So one of my most popular episodes is what is actually happening in the brain when you meditate. That was episode three, I believe, or four. And I pulled up a number of different studies that they had done. I read through them, found the things that. Matched and made sense that had been peer reviewed and then shared essentially what I read and how I understood it and what that might mean for you, and that was the formula for maybe the first year and a half before I then also started adding personal experience.
So here are the things I'm trying. Here's what worked. And then finally, the last thing that I include in the show and I I'm very, very adamant about doing is correcting myself. So there are a number of if somebody were to sit and listen to all five hundred ninety whatever episodes that are available, there are a number of times where you'll hear an episode 60 episodes later, 100 episodes later, where I say, you know, back in episode blank, I said, this thing turns out I'm an idiot.
And that's really important to me because I don't no matter how big this gets, I do not ever want to be viewed as a guru. Tony Robbins like figure. And people do like messaged me on on Instagram and stuff saying like, oh, you helped me change my life, yada, yada, yada. My response is I'm glad I could play any small role, but I didn't do that like you did. That's you. That to me is is important because I can't tell.
I'm currently twenty eight year old young black man in New Hampshire. I can't tell a 35 year old single mother of three young kids working two jobs what she should do about her life. I just can't I don't have that experience. I don't have the knowledge she has. I have no idea where she's at. All I can do is share the things that science says works, share the things that I've found work for me, give those caveats and try to break it down into very simple things that she can try and hope that she tries it.
And if she does, oftentimes I get the message saying, hey, this worked. Thank you so much. Other times I get the message, hey, this didn't work. Can you, like, think about, like, another way that I can do it? And then I'll release another episode on that same topic.
Yeah. One of the things that I've discovered the I struggle with is like you, I try to be very vulnerable about, you know, mistakes pass knowledge.
Like I just make my personality and character has always been very self-deprecating. So it's not like it's been hard for me or it's not even it's not even particularly scary for me to be vulnerable. Like people are like, yeah, oh, you were so brave for saying that. I'm like, no, I really wasn't good. I didn't feel that way.
Now that's just a Tuesday for me. And and yet I find even with that, that people project onto me because I talk about health and I talk about wellbeing and fitness. The people project onto me like I have the answers. Yeah. Like somehow I like I've got to figure it out.
And even more so with one of my business partners named Josh, who used to be four hundred and twenty pounds and is now he was on the cover of Runner's World magazine like a total transformation story. And people just look at the before and after for him, even far more so than for me and say, well, you guys are different species like you like whatever you have to say. Like, I love it. I love listening to you. I'm inspired.
Inspire me some more, teach me how to be like you. And it feels like they completely missed the point.
And they're they're putting something on me that isn't there to so that they don't have to face something. I wonder if you. Yeah. If you know what I'm talking about.
I know exactly what you're talking about. I had this exact conversation with the listener yesterday. I was talking about our premium membership community. That's five bucks a month. And she had tried it. She really enjoyed it, but then let her subscription lapse. So I was talking to her and was just saying, OK, like, let me know what's going on. OK, are you still interested? And she told me, I feel like I'm not good enough to be among you, quote unquote, go getters.
And it just like floored me because if this woman knew every single thing that I do on a day to day basis in the amount of time I waste on my phone, watching Netflix, listening to politics, like just doing dumb stuff, like she would never call me a go getter.
So there is this weird I think people have this strange desire to, like, elevate guides. And first of all, there's a desire to find a guide for something like if you don't know what it is that you're doing, if you don't know how to do something, if you've been struggling for a while, there's this desire to find someone who can just lay it out for you. And then second, when they find that person, they elevate. To a level that doesn't make sense, they put them on a pedestal and this reminds me of a few weeks ago I saw an article that was about one of the women on Shark Tank.
I can't remember her name right now, the real estate person. So she is very successful. Obviously, she's she's worth multiple millions of dollars and has built a massive company in this space. And the article was about her five tips on interviewing for a job. Now, something struck me with that because I saw it and I thought this woman hasn't had to interview for a job in probably 25 or 30 years, number one. And number two, she does not do the interviews for her company.
So what grounds are we saying that she has any expertise on interviewing for jobs? There is none. It's just that she is a celebrity. And we look at, oh, successful. So that must mean you're also amazing and all these other things and everything you say must be correct. And we just have this weird culture where we do that, whereas you have people all around this country who have been working for years helping people land jobs, improve their interview skills and so forth, who are not celebrities and therefore not getting those articles.
So all of that is to say, I think that there is some fundamental human nature of wanting to separate themselves from the people that they look up to, partially because it helps them feel not so bad for not being in the same position, and partially because it just allows them to justify essentially the way that they view that person and the time they spend consuming that person's content. Because if you're just listening to your neighbor, then that's a waste of time.
If you're listening to an expert or a guide or something like that, then OK, that's productive and valuable, how you deal with it. For me, it's just always been being as clear as possible and reminding people as much as possible. And that doesn't seem to work quite honestly, because I still get the same people asking the same things and treating me the same way. But that's really all I can do, is tell you over and over again, hey, I'm figuring this out, too.
I have no idea what I'm doing. Quite honestly, the fact that tiny leaps is as large as it is and working as well as it has was almost an accident. Like it's not like I had this grand master plan and have been executing it perfectly for the last five years. I tried a thousand things. One of them worked that I was passionate about and I doubled down and have been making decisions, most of which have failed ever since.
All right. Well, you know, for me, what I hear the success formula that I hear and there is tried a thousand things. Yeah.
Your your ability to try a lot of things. And this is one of the lessons that my dad taught me just sort of in his career, your ability to try a lot of different things and be willing to scrap those things. Either the minute is working or the minute that you lose interest, that is that is a massive determinant to whether or not you find something that works, because every single thing you try teaches you something. Every single thing you try allows you to step forward in some way.
And every single thing you try helps you as a person grow. All of that gets brought into the next thing and the next thing and the next thing I've been trying to build. You mentioned Internet marketing. I've been trying to build companies online since junior year of high school or senior year of high school. I first got into Internet marketing and I was on the The Warrior Forum, which was this massive community for other Internet scammers, basically. And like I was in SEO on Google prior to that, being a thing that people knew how to do.
So this this show was not new for me. It was one on a very long list of things that I had tried. And this one happened to work.
Hmm. Yeah. For me, it was weird. It was that like I was doing Internet marketing until about 2013 and I had an invitation that was it was pretty much accidental to get into the health space. It was an opportunity to go write a book that then gave me access and rekindled my interest in health. And, you know, it felt like in order for me to move forward, you would think I had all these marketing chops, like I written the For Dummies book on how to use Google AdWords.
Yeah, like, I knew a lot of stuff and people paid me money to teach them things. And I couldn't move forward except by, like, rejecting all of it.
Yeah, it wasn't like I'm like, OK, well I'm going to use these things as.
It was like the whole thing was so tainted in my mind all the way through that I was like on purpose, I'm going to write the most boring headlines just so I don't accidentally, you know, make a date or things like that.
No. Yeah. Listen, the minute that I made the shift in my own head and I remember posting the Facebook post about it because I for lack of a better word, I kind of grew up in the Internet marketing world.
It was from senior year of high school through the end of college, 2014.
I'm really curious who your gurus were. It's actually funny. So Pat Flynn was a part of the Warrior Forum back then prior to being Pat Flynn. And I remember seeing his, like, forum posts and stuff. There were a lot of people I got into it through. There was this guy at this PDF that was going around call. I have no idea who wrote it.
I just remember say it again. It was cut out for saying it was called the NewBay Handbook, OK? It was this PDF that I went through that just taught the basics of affiliate marketing and using easy and articles to drive traffic back to your blogs and so on, so forth. And I can't remember any specific names of people that I followed then, but they like all the people that are huge now, the Russ Russell, Brunson's, Pat Flynn, so and so forth, like they were all there.
But yeah, the minute I switched and and focused more on being a maker than a marketer, like things really opened up in my own mind. I don't think it's something people necessarily noticed. But thinking like a creator allowed me to have significantly more fun with the things I was doing and feel less gross about it.
And that's so funny because it's exactly the opposite of what you get taught in those places, which is that anyone can make soap, but it takes a genius to sell soap like, oh, you're you you're you clean carpets.
No, you're a marketer of carpet cleaning services. Yeah.
And what's so interesting, when you look at any major company, like outside of the Internet marketing world, any major company out there, the vast majority of them did not grow because of great marketing.
They grew because of great products and marketing matters. Don't get me wrong, I will always love marketing as a tool. But if you don't have a good product, Airbnb got massive because they had a unique and interesting product. They're marketing to begin with was literally talking to people one by one. That was it. And then because it was a great product, it spread from there. Same with Facebook. It was enrolling schools one by one and then it spread from there.
Amazon was getting books sent to his garage and setting up the e-commerce and stuff, but making sales one by one. It's not like he had a massive marketing budget that he could put up New York City billboards to talk about Amazon.com back then.
All right, so so you shifted from marketer to maker, you decided to talk what was if you thought about like I'm sure you thought about like demographics and psychographics of your market, how did you define it when you see tiny leaps back then, it was essentially me.
So it was the young sort of millennial interested in personal development, but hates how fluffy and nonsensical the spaces and trying to figure out how to, quite honestly, crawl their way out of student loan debt. And that that's what I thought it was, the person who actually showed up. And this was really a very smart move that I made in the beginning that was accidental again. So I launched January 1st, 2016, through the month of February and I believe March.
I mentioned on my podcast, hey, go to this calendar page and book a 15 minute call with me. And that was very pivotal to understanding who that initial audience actually was. I did probably 30 to 40 phone calls with with real listeners, ask them how they found the show, ask them about their lives, so on, so forth, and and listen to what problems they wanted to discuss, because I essentially gave them a free pass, like, hey, we can talk about anything you want.
Whatever they chose to talk about helped me guide future episodes. The person who showed up was largely female, still roughly the same age range, twenty three to thirty five. And then it would drop off a bit and then pick back up around forty five. And the focus was really just on everyday problems. It was, it was less about making money specifically or about starting a business or any of the things that I might thought might have been a part of it.
It was more so I'm overwhelmed and stressed out and I don't know where to start. So I'm going to listen to this and hopefully it helps me to.
You mentioned earlier that you have done therapy. Yes, there are.
There are times in my professional life where it feels like nothing that I can teach people is going to matter until they go to therapy. And I'm wondering, given your you know, and I work with people from all different abilities to pay. And so I understand that not everyone has access to therapy and these days not everyone wants to do, you know, Zoomer Skype therapy. Yeah. You know, if you're specifically working with people who are, you know, burdened by student debt, who might not have a lot of resources, who might not be able to even pay five dollars a month for your services, how do you think about, you know, sounds like therapy was useful to you?
How do you know do you find that like that's say that people just sort of dealing with their own stuff in a deeper way than you can guide them is necessary?
I think it's necessary. It's something that I'm a huge advocate for. Therapy for me was instrumental because I grew up in a household where, quite honestly, emotions weren't acknowledged. It wasn't for a very long time. I struggled with anxiety and had had that my entire life. I didn't even know what it was. I remember meeting my my girlfriend, who also struggles with anxiety, and she used to tell me all the time, like she's feeling like anxious about this and that.
And we talk through it. And I remember thinking in my head, like, that's so weird.
I never get anxiety until she described what it felt like. And I realized, oh, I've had that literally my entire life. I just did not know what it was.
So so to that extent, and figuring out how to better understand what I was feeling when I was feeling it, how what was causing it and put language to it, even if I didn't have solutions, that that was massively, massively helpful. And that was the reason I originally started going to therapy probably six, six years ago now. And I was fortunate then because I was on my mother's health insurance bill.
And so I was able to go and have that covered through through her program after I turned 26 or whatever the cutoff is, I haven't regularly gone because the cost is extremely high and I recognize that I have used the online tools like Better Help and the others. I've tried all of them and I think they're good. I don't think that they're necessarily as good as an in-person session could be if you find the right person. But if you're not in a position to do that, and especially right now, if you don't feel comfortable doing that with with covid, then I think that those online tools can actually be very valuable and are easier to jump in and out of.
So what I mean is this March, I was going to therapy much more regularly and so I was paying the subscription and then I started feeling like maybe I didn't need it as much. And so I canceled my subscription and probably in a month or two I will get my subscription again. So I don't view it as something that you absolutely have to go every single week and follow. This set routine like that is helpful for for sure. But if you're not in that position, if you can only do once a month, it's still valuable to do that and get the support that you need.
And more most importantly, in my opinion, is just being able to speak unfiltered. Even when you're sharing problems with your friends or your loved ones, they have an opinion of you and they may not be sharing it. They may be amazingly supportive. But in the back of your mind, subconsciously, you're always worried about that opinion. And so you do filter yourself to some degree, whether you notice it or not, with the therapist who is completely unbiased and is trained to ask questions and react in a way that shows that that lack of the bias, you're able to go into things that you never thought you knew or could go into simply because that filter gets lifted.
And I think that by itself, even if they don't respond, is incredibly valuable.
Hmm. Yeah. Can you say the names of the websites? So for people who are listening to things, they might want to try it?
Yeah, better. Yeah, better. Help is the one that I've used in the past, but better help dot com. Yeah, better help dot com.
OK, great. Thanks. So let's, let's talk about tiny leaps, big changes. So what's the uh what's the tiny leaps. What does that refer to.
So tiny leaps is referring to. I it's best summarized like this at the end of every episode I say all big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day. So the idea is fairly straightforward. I think a lot of us ignore or diminish the value of those small things that we can do each day because they don't feel large enough and they don't feel like they're going to truly matter. So. So looking at fitness, for example, I recently got into running.
I've always hated running my entire life. It's not something I enjoyed. I got into it back in March and I trained for a period of time. And a few weeks ago I ran my first 10K distance. It was an official race, so super happy about that. And that's not something I ever felt that I could have done because again, I've hated running my entire life. I hated the presidential fitness test. I was always the slowest person there.
I was great at sprinting events. That was my gym and track and field. But distance always killed me. And what I did to finally stick with it and to get to a point where I could see the value and actually enjoy it was allowing myself on those days when I truly did not want to go where I hated it, to just go out for a jog around the block or just go down the street or whatever small thing that doesn't even feel like running.
I just allowed myself to do that some days. And I think that there's value in those tiny things that feel inconsequential purely from the point of view of getting yourself. To develop a habit, to prioritize it in your own mind, to better understand why you're doing it and what the role could be in your life. I think that those small things truly do matter, but for some reason, because it doesn't lead directly to the large outcome we're trying to create, we we just don't do them.
We think, oh, well, I only have five minutes today, so I guess I won't read or I only have three minutes. So I guess I won't do a quick meditation. All of these things that we could get value from, we don't do because we don't have enough time or enough energy or enough space. We tell ourselves these are too small. So let's just push it till tomorrow when if you just started with those small things that you could do right now, those tiny leaps, it would put you in a position to better prioritize it tomorrow, to better create space for it, to better create time for it in the long term.
That's how change ultimately happens over time, is starting with whatever you're able to start with. And because you are now doing it, because it is now a part of your identity, because it's something that you've built into your day, it starts to take up more and more time, energy, space and allow itself to fill the time that it truly needs to bring you value.
Hmm. Sounds a lot like an immigrant philosophy.
Yes. So that's when I wrote my book. Actually, I so the book is called Tiny Leaves, Big Changes as well. And I was very adamant about not writing something that was derivative of the podcast. I wanted it to stand by itself, support each other, of course. And if you read and listen to if you read the book and then listen to the podcast or vice versa, there's additional value in both. But it needed to be its own standalone thing.
As I was writing it, I realized this tiny leaf's concept really did come from my parents and what they did, what I saw them do as I was growing up. They, of course, didn't have that that phrasing for it. They maybe didn't have any language for it. It was just this is what I have to do. But what I now believe to be the key to creating change over long periods of time truly is exactly what every single immigrant who's come to this country and found, quote unquote, success has had to do.
It's what is right in front of you. Make that choice, do everything you can with it, and then move to that next leg on the journey. Right.
And, you know, and we see people when they're in positions where they have it feels like they have no choice, that the people tend to do that. But what about you know, so a lot of the people I work with basically feel like this is optional.
It's a nice to have.
And so they don't they you know, I try not to get people to motivate themselves through fear or through application like this should be joyful. And there's there's truth that being an immigrant and not knowing how you're going to feed your family is going to make you do things that wanting to lose 30 pounds isn't necessarily going to do it. Yeah. How do you think about that?
That's why I started Tiny Leap's.
Ultimately, at its core, if somebody listens to an episode on meditation or on goal setting or productivity, I don't truly care if they walk away from that individual episode saying, OK, here's my next action steps. Like, that's great. And if they get that awesome, what I ultimately care about and what the purpose of both the show, the book, the network that we're building, all of it is to help change the the underlying philosophy. So that question you or that that statement you just made of people view this is optional.
People view this as well. I have another choice. So why would I go that route? And that is, in my opinion, the number one thing holding people back in other areas of their lives that they're trying to change, whether it's their weight loss or their finances or any other area, recognizing that the small things you do today do matter and that they are all ultimately excuse me, the building blocks of the life you're going to live the minute you recognize that and you're able to change your perspective and your underlying philosophy of change in that way, it becomes significantly easier because, number one, failure doesn't matter anymore because you're looking at the super long term.
It doesn't matter if this week you missed a day or you fell off the diet. That's not going to matter when you're looking in the next 20 years of your life. And two, it makes it easier to start and pick things back up when you do fail. It makes it easier to get things going, so making that shift is what my ultimate goal is. And my approach to that, quite honestly, is essentially propaganda. Like I'm trying to produce as much content as possible that reminds people.
And that's why I say it at the end of every single episode for the last five hundred something episodes, all big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day. I don't care what it is you're specifically doing or what goals you have or what you failed at, just remember and believe that. And I think your actions start to fall in line with your beliefs and a lot of cases.
Now, I found more success with that, with positive behavior. So things people want to add into their day, like I'm going to have a salad, I'm going to go for a walk, I'm going to sit and meditate or journal that when people have to resist things or eliminate things that are very different, forces are at play. I was just and most of my coaching is around actions. So it's not very touchy feely in terms of, you know, here's how my mother treated me.
This is what my sister said when I was four and stuff like that. But I was just I was just working with a group and they all happen to be women in their 40s in the 50s or 60s.
And what came out, I was trying to I was inelegantly asking him a question like, why are you doing why are you here? What are you trying to achieve?
And almost all of them sort of piggyback on one another to say some version of I want to like myself and feels like like in the moment, like I get tiny leaps, little steps, make it actually make it actionable, make it attainable.
And yet there's this undercurrent of I don't really like myself, so. Yeah. Why bother.
Yeah. And that's the that's the hard thing. Right. Because they're doing this because they want to like themselves. But at the end of the day they'll only do it if they do like themselves. There's a great video from Terry Crews who I know has been controversial in a lot of areas.
But I used to hate the word self-discipline because it has that negative connotation that comes with discipline. He described it in a way that finally resonated with me as self self-discipline is self-love. If you are choosing not to, let's say, have that doughnut or eat pizza tonight or whatever, the thing is that you're trying to remove that's coming out of I love myself enough to not want that stomach ache, to not want to set back whatever goals I have, like I love myself enough to to see myself succeed, essentially.
So it's unfortunate when people are trying to create change purely from a place of I want this outcome so that I can love myself for so that I can be happy or any of these other areas, because you're never going to take the actions until you get to that place. And that is an area that I discuss on the show. One thing I try to remind people, so I'm very big on self empathy. I'm very big on allowing failure to not be a big deal.
And truthfully, all of that comes from, yes, I think the emotional mental side of change matters. But I also think that at the end of the day, if you allow yourself to downplay failure, for example, if you allow hey, this day I didn't do my workout routine or I didn't eat properly or whatever it is. And you're that's fine. That's whatever. All of a sudden, there's not this big massive weight on your chest when that happens and you're not beating yourself up and you're not stressed about it and you're not like putting yourself in this worst mental space that then makes action harder to take.
And that's that's ultimately what I try to help people do, is realize all of these like negative things that you're coming to your change from. It's just going to make action harder to take. And like you said, Howard, ultimately action is what matters like, yeah, we can sit and talk about what happened in your childhood. We can sit and talk about that. You don't love yourself, so and so forth. But whether or not you change comes down to did you do a thing or not?
Like that's that's really where it all drives back to. So I try to build those frameworks and remind people that failure is OK. It's fine if you aren't getting moving as fast as you want, like building self empathy into it. But at the end of the day. I've also found that you can start to change thinking and start to change that emotional side by taking action, and that's another reason why focusing on those smaller steps, rather than I need to commit to this big, large thing that I'm never going to do because I hate myself focusing on the small thing that you can maybe convince yourself to do, even if you do hate yourself, that can start to over time, build more self-love, confidence, whatever it is that you need into it.
Hmm. Yeah. That feeling like, OK, I don't really want to do it, but it's such not a big deal. Yeah. I might as well just go ahead. Yeah.
It's like flossing one tooth. It feels like it's not going to matter. It feels like it's stupid but it's also stupid. So why wouldn't you just do it.
Right. And then I think the important thing is to train yourself, to interpret that correctly, to interpret it as evidence of positive potential. Yes.
And that's a I love that you use the word evidence because I talk about this all the time when it comes to things like one of my biggest questions people ask me is how do I build self-confidence? What I was tell them is confidence comes from trust in yourself. Like historically, when I do this, I'm able to be successful or when I do fail at it, it's not a big deal, so and so forth. In order to build that, if you don't already have that history, you have to unfortunately take actions that then create the history.
That's what we're relying on for a regulation of are we confident or not. So from there, let's let's look at that that term evidence when we're trying to develop self-love, when we're trying to develop confidence and we're trying to develop trust with ourselves, whatever it might be, the things that we know emotionally are necessary for sustained action over periods of time. Those tiny actions in the beginning that don't require an enormous amount of investment from you. Those allow you to build up the history, like when you when your coach tells you, hey, you know what, you're and maybe they're not saying this part to you, but in their head, they're saying, OK, this this client is not mentally, emotionally in a place to complete this 10 week program.
We're going to start her with just one push up. We're going to start him with just running down the block. And that seems stupid. And for the client, they might say, why are you wasting my time? But then you explain it to them. We need to first build up the trust, need to first build up the confidence, the self love. And by doing those things, when I ask you to do them at whatever schedule, you're going to have a history to now look back on and say, oh, I do love myself because I've been accomplishing these things.
I do trust myself because I've actually been showing up and doing it. Even though those things are tiny in your head, it's always going to feel like I did this thing. And that helps you over time to build that trust, to be able to tackle the bigger things.
I love it. So what's what's up for you next year? I mentioned you're growing your media company. Yeah. What's what's your what's the goal on the horizon for you?
So the next big, big thing is the podcast network. It's one of those opportunities that has been in the back of my head for a few years now. There is always sort of an interest in starting a podcast network, but I've finally found a model that I feel excited about, whereas most podcast networks, you know, they're recruiting shows. And the promises were, hey, we're going to sell your ad space and we'll take a cut and you can get you can start monetizing your show that works and is great.
And I've I've I've know plenty of people that are part of those networks. I have an agency who reps my show similarly situation.
My approach is going to be one. There will be a very small group of shows involved over the next five years. My projection is that we'll have ten shows. So it's a very select process that we're bringing on a new show. Roughly every six to seven months, we are going to be, as a network, investing heavily into each individual show from the production quality to the actual awareness and growth of their audience for them and of course, selling the brand deals and so on, so forth as a total network.
And my ultimate goal with this is to bring on shows that are exclusively following that similar philosophy of all big changes come from the tiny leaves you take every day. Obviously, it'll be different hosts. People have different perspectives and different approaches and experiences. But at the end of the day, the thing that every single little. Or of a show on the tiny leap's network needs to have is this this understanding that the small things they do every day matters, regardless of what topic it's on?
So so I'm going to be building that out. And that is, quite honestly, the thing I'm most excited about. The thing I'm most focused on, of course, I'm still publishing my show, but that is pretty. I've been doing that for five years. So that's very system, a system based. But at this point, this is the new thing I get to like build from the ground up.
You mean I should have a system by now? I have to rethink some things.
Very cool how I'm coming to the close of just curious young guy in New Hampshire, a person of color these days like how are you staying sane?
That's a great question. If there's one thing I mean, there's a lot of things, but one major thing that my parents taught me growing up was the value of work and the value of having something to pour your energy into. So I was always the person that regardless of whether or not I had a full time job, which I've had many corporate positions, whether or not I was interning or whatever it is, I always had something on the side, something else that I was pouring my energy into.
And so my sanity, quite honestly, and there are faults in this. This is a thing that I've had to go through in therapy and will have to again in the future. But my sanity comes from working and it comes from building things and taking ideas out of my head and putting them into the world and seeing how people respond. So I No. One limit my news consumption as much as possible. It's very difficult because I am addicted to politics.
And so I tend to have that on in the background. But trying to limit that is as much as possible is a major, major part of keeping me sane, especially during my covid as it relates to the protests and George, Florida and all of that. Like that's not new. That's the stuff that I've been learning about and hearing about and warned about from my family my entire life. So I love seeing what's happening outside of obviously the looting and stuff, but largely that's not coming from the actual protesters anyway.
So I love the movement that's going on.
I just personally, I put my energy where I know I'm good, which is let me build something that is and something I've always said my entire life is I want to be as massively successful as possible, whatever that ends up meaning for me and massively public about that, because I think representation does matter. And I think that growing up, I was fortunate to take influence from looking at like the Forbes billionaire list. The only black person on it was Oprah and maybe like the prince of Saudi Arabia, which doesn't count.
And so I'm fortunate that I've never let that be a determining factor of whether or not I think I could one day make it there. But I do know that for many people, and that's thanks to how my father raised me. For many people, they didn't have that same father. And so that representation does matter. And my job is to be as successful as possible, as public as possible, so that the representation there is there and then as willing to build a ladder as possible.
And so as much as I can, I'm trying to find ways to to bring other people up with me, which is a big goal of this network as well.
It sounds like that strategy, that three pronged strategy is really an analogue of tiny leaps, but applied broadly like, yeah, yeah, there's a lot we can't control. And here's where I here's what I here's where I have some power. Yeah. Here's what I can do right now. Here's where I can do the work instead of just scrolling down, like I can really get into a really negative place where like every news story I see, I can find the criticism, like watching that the Democratic National Convention and like, you know, the narrative in my head is like, what's wrong with this and what's wrong with that?
The other thing and when I get to work, when I start writing something or producing something, that all settles.
Yeah. Yeah. Because you go into your own mind, you go into what you can do right this second. And that's ultimately like that. That's where the change comes from it. Even when you look at the the protesters and the people out there actually doing that work, like that's that's where the change is going to come from is what work can you do right now that helps make a difference. And for me, that means the work that I'm focused on for a lot of other people, that means other things.
But all we can do is focus where we can focus.
Hmm. All right. One final question. Yeah. What music are you listening to these days that other people might not know about?
Oh, that's a great question. I listen to a lot of you know, I think a lot of people know about that. So I was going to say I listen to a lot of lo fi on on YouTube.
So my homepage is just all lo fi chill playlists. Beyond that, I think my favorite new artist let me pull up their Spotify page here to some saying the name correctly. Recently played. There we go. OK, so I built a an app a while back that I haven't released publicly. I'm still not sure what I'm doing with it, but it was when I got into running, I wanted to get better Spotify playlists for my runs that matched like the pace I wanted to go at.
And so I built this app that could do that. And it generated your playlist for you. One of the playlists that it created had a lot of whereas it. Yeah, so it's titled Accoustic Feel 11 and the artist is. Where is the. Here we go, Earl Sweatshirt. So he's a sweater. Yeah, so he's a hip hop artist. He's originally part of like an odd future with Tyler, the creator, who is significantly more well known.
But he has his own career. And I don't even think he releases that much anymore as a result. I've never listened to him. And he popped up on one of the playlists that got made. And his his work is excellent.
Awesome. All right. I'll go find some YouTube and put them in the show notes and I'll I'll ask my son and he'll roll his eyes and say, yeah, dad, I of course, I know the purple sweatshirt is so well, I'm just as out of the touch as you are, so.
Well, this is how I get my cred. I, I, I borrow of good, good music from other people and then I go play it and go, hey, listen to this. Well, Greg Clarus, thank you so much.
I really enjoyed this conversation. It's great to get to meet you through this weird and wonderful video and audio medium. And where can people find you?
Yeah, I mean, first of all, thank you so much for having me this. This is honestly a pleasure for those of you listening. Thank you for sharing some of your time with me. If you want to go a little bit deeper, I have my own podcast that tiny leaps, big changes. Just do a search for that. Wherever you're listening to this show, there are 500 close to 600 episodes. So there's plenty to go through and find something you like.
And then once you've listened to that, I would love your feedback. Just reach out to me on Instagram at Tiny Leap's, super active on that page. I'm the one running it, responding to everybody. So shoot me a message and let's jump into a conversation.
Terrific. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for your inspiration and words of wisdom and and really grounded spirit. I love that we we've been on similar journeys. And I was you know, I'm probably 20 years older and I feel like you're ahead of me in many ways.
And I feel like I really appreciate the move, the compactness and the the concentration of of of learnings you've had that are benefiting me in this conversation.
So I appreciate appreciate very much your your time and energy and wish you all the best.
Thank you again. I take care.
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You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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