Craig Swanson Joins Us On The Steve Jobs Inspired Join Up Dots Podcast
Introducing Craig Swanson
Craig Swanson is todays guest joining us on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots business podcast
At the age of 18, Craig founded Swanson Tech Support which tuned out to be a costly failure, and worked as a tech consultant for 6 years before founding CreativeTechs which lead to over a million dollars in sales.
Soon after Craig co-founded the creative online learning platform CreativeLive, an idea that was birthed from a failed video training program for his IT business.
Now Craig partners with creators, educators, and influencers by providing the missing piece that they need to get to the next stage of their business and is helping build $1 million dollar businesses one step at a time.
He is also the head of the Seattle Entrepreneur’s Organization Accelerator Program where he works to a similar mission, helping start-up’s with $250k in revenue top the million dollar mark.
him go again after discovering the big F of failure as a young man?
And looking back would he do anything differently or has it all lead him to where he is today?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr Craig Swanson
During the show we discussed such weighty subjects with Craig Swanson such as:
Craig shares the pressure point of allowing himself to let his business die and be ok with that.
Why it is so important to understand your place within a company so you can lean into other peoples strengths.
We discuss why it is so important to understand the passions and knowledge
Craig talks about the darkest time of his life as he lost control of his successful business and why it was the best thing to happen to him.
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Full Transcription Of Craig Swanson
Life shouldn’t be hard life should be a fun filled adventure every day. So now start joining up dots tap into your talents, your skills, your God given gifts and tell your boss, you don’t deserve me. I’m out of here. It’s time for you to smash that alarm clock and start getting the dream business and life you will of course, are dreaming God. Let’s join your host, David Ralph from the back of his garden in the UK, or wherever he might be today with another JAM PACKED episode of the number one hit podcast. Join Up Dots.
David Ralph [0:40]
Yes back. Good morning to you all, wherever you are across the world. Thank you so much for joining another episode of Join Up Dots. It’s the show where we Join Up Dots or connect the dots as Steve Jobs said many years ago, but what did he know? What did he know probably quite a lot to be honest. Now. Today’s guest knows even more than me knows even more of in Steve Jobs as he is a man with so many fingers in so many pies. And he started quite early because at the age of 18, he founded swans and tech support, which turned out to be a costly failure. I worked as a tech consultant for six years before founding creative Tech’s which led to over a million dollars in sales. So now after he co founded the creative online learning platform Creative Live an idea that was birthed from a failed video training programme for his it business. Now Creative Live would grow from a small startup team to 70 plus employees, offering workshops with top industry leaders like Tim Ferriss, and Brene Brown. And now he partners with creators, educators and influencers by providing the missing piece that they need to get to the next stage of their business and is helping build $1 million businesses one step at a time. He’s also the head of this Seattle entrepreneurs organisation accelerator programme, where he works to a similar mission helping startups with 250,000 in revenue top the million dollar mark. So what made him what made him go into this? And does he look back and think that the big failure that he had as a young man was the key point to where he is today? Well, let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr. Craig Swanson. Good morning.
Craig Swanson [2:32]
Thank you. That was a fantastic intro.
David Ralph [2:34]
Ah, that’s what we tried to do. We we tried to butter you up so that you feel all nice and pliable in my hands. And then when you least expect it. I hit you with the hard questions. All right, so I’m gonna start with one, I was just listening to the introduction. And I’ve played it introduction a billion times now. And every now and again, I actually stopped and listened to what he’s saying. And it talks about finding your talents. When did you know that you had talent, that business?
Craig Swanson [3:03]
You know, I? Well, I got my first business licence when I was 12 years old, because I had a paper route. And I wanted to sell ice cream on that paper route because I thought I could do too at the same time. And I needed a business licence to get a wholesaler licence. This would be for Costco. I’ve always loved coming up with ideas and trying to build business structures around them. I don’t know why. I don’t know that that comes from any place my family I’ve been able to identify. But this feels like the area of my art. My art is trying to build business concepts that work.
David Ralph [3:42]
When we started Join Up Dots, it was a common theme that we would touch into time and time again, that the kind of things that you liked when you were really small. When you didn’t have any money, right? You just love doing them when you came home from school, where people used to say to me, yeah, I love building businesses. And then it turned out that they loved building Lego, or they love building camps. And it was that kind of creating something from nothing spirit, which they then had to find an adult outlook for it. Let’s take you back to that little Craig Swanson with the scabs on his knees and the shorts and he’s laying on his floor. Well, what were the kinds of things that was inspiring you?
Craig Swanson [4:24]
I found a eight millimetre film camera like the old type, you crank up your sales like film, yeah, at a yard sale. And I was reading books on how you make movies. And I was fascinated with being a director and I was making and I started making time lapse. Little movies on a whiteboard with my with my Tonka Toys and all the little toys I had and I loved the idea of creating stories with moving pictures,
David Ralph [4:53]
which is kind of a forerunner to Creative Live really, isn’t it? It’s that same spirit of of teaching people showing people entertaining people with with live imagery.
Craig Swanson [5:07]
It is I mean, I, I originally wanted to be a a film producer or a film director. And it turns out that I ended up really being immersed and surrounded by video producers I never formally went to school for but I love this space.
David Ralph [5:22]
What was it about it? Because it is fundamental, there’s the sort of the Passion stage where that so many people struggle to find, it’s always with us, it’s just that we don’t look at in the right areas really, or we don’t assess it to be something worthwhile, what was it about it that really sort of lit the fires in you?
Craig Swanson [5:44]
You know, I think it is a combination of. So first of all, there’s a lot of technology involved. So I love solving technical problems. So doing time lapse photography, or figuring out things that was just a really great technical challenge. And then we’re creating something that we get to share, I love being able to show something I’d created in class or to parents or to anyone I could drag in. So it’s this combination of a technical challenge, telling a story and then sharing it with other people that I just love that entire experience.
David Ralph [6:13]
Now, with the experience now that you’re having, you’ve got a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. And this is a question that I’ve started pondering in myself and with people. Do you still love what you do? Or is what you do? Just watch you do? Because there is a point that no matter how much you love something, it becomes samey. And you just kind of thing? Well, it’s what I am now, you know, I’m, I’m a podcaster. This is just what I do. Do you still have that kind of excitement in you? When you wake up each day, like you might have done when you got the ball rolling? And everything was sexy?
Craig Swanson [6:56]
Lately, yes, so yes, I wake up really excited. And largely because I’ve kind of let go of a lot of things that people might think are required. I am, I am perpetually in the space that I love, which is trying to figure out how to take a business that is just on the cusp of figuring out product market fit, and getting it up to stability and getting it to grow and getting building a team. And I remember my first my first business I ran for, like 2025 years, it’s like I love the first five years. And then the last last 15 years, I just felt trapped by and it was just this struggle of just kind of maintaining it. And these days, I am really living kind of my dream of working with entrepreneurs and just kind of building in this space where I’m helping create stability, create something that works, and then mentor a team to go run it. And once it’s built, I get to step back and watch it work. So that’s kind of a long meandering talk. But yeah, I love it. Largely because I’m doing the parts I love and I started to let go the stuff that doesn’t really fire me up
David Ralph [8:04]
those 15 years, I think most people who have either built a business or maybe are in corporate land, and they’re going to do a job, they will have experienced that. And it’s very difficult to get out of it. Because your motivation just kind of dwindles. I realised recently, when we went through COVID. And I had to disconnect from my business. A lot of it, I found very hard to get going again, because I kind of it was all like when I was in it all the time, and I was enjoying it. But when I walked away and realise, sitting in the garden with a nice drink in the sunshine was actually more pleasurable, it was difficult to sort of reconnect. When you look back on the Craig Swanson who was going through the motions or wasn’t inspired. Would there be anything that you look at anything he could have done differently? Or is it just a you have to bide your time? Is it just a season that you’ve got to go through?
Craig Swanson [9:03]
I mean that Craig Swanson I wouldn’t have do anything different because I love my current life too much. But if I were to run into someone else in those shoes, the biggest thing is I spent so much of my energy defending the box that I was trapped in. Not taking risks with the business because I was afraid I had something to lose. And honestly, the thing that freed me up is my wife and I we became pregnant with a child coming. And we took a really honest look at the business and said this isn’t serving the family. We either need to leave let this business go. Or we need to have the business start supporting the family. And if I hadn’t had that pressure point of allowing myself basically to let the business die if it wasn’t going to become something that could support us. I never would have taken the risks never would have let go of the handle enough to let other people start to drive for it to start to become something bigger than this thing that I had Built around myself.
David Ralph [10:01]
Now, I love this because this is really where we’re into this at the moment on Join Up Dots. And it’s the allowing a business to die, to be able to see the strong points and see the myths actually need. There’s the world out there juggling so many plates that you say, why are you actually doing that? And they can’t really justify it is something that they’ve always done. Or you ask them, What results are you getting from doing that? The classic case with, you know, blockbuster films and movies, they spend millions on advertising, but actually people would still go in and see the new Spider Man film, they’re just frightened not to do it in case, in case it doesn’t work. So with you, was it a liberation to let something potentially die, but then see, oh, hang on. It’s running on his own here.
Craig Swanson [10:57]
I mean, probably two or three times, actually, almost every time I’ve let something go, it’s been a really painful experience on some level. So so no, the first time around, it really was survival. Like I really needed. We, we had been living in denial for probably about five years that the business was not working, it was not growing, it was only functioning because I was pouring all of myself into it. And to face that, and to have an honest conversation with my wife to say, hey, you know, it is better, we don’t have anything to lose this thing is draining us. If we let this die as it is, we’re probably better off. And it didn’t die, it actually got better, because I started to take risks, because I wasn’t seeing myself protecting anything anymore. I’ve been I’ve been so defended, and protecting this way that we did business. And there are so many things I was not willing to even think or consider outside of that box. Because that box was my entire life, that when that box was potentially going to go away, I started to see my relationship with the business differently. It became less about my emotion, ego, if other people came in and made mistakes, it wasn’t critical. Because if they didn’t come in and make mistakes, and we didn’t figure this out, the business was gonna go away anyway. So why not take the risk of like trying to see it work in someone else’s hands?
David Ralph [12:18]
So So was it an ego thing? Craig? Was it because when you create something, it’s almost you feel bad, you should know all the answers. And I’ve seen this with CEOs and directors of companies that are quite frankly, rubbish. And I’ve always been astonished that they’re the head of a company, because they seem to be the bottleneck of allowing the company to do what it should do, because they feel like they should be providing every solution. Was it ego?
Craig Swanson [12:50]
I absolutely was. I don’t know if I knew it at the time. But I in the evenings, I would be reading the E Myth from Michael Gerber. And I’d be dreaming about a company that could work without me. And then any moment during the day that some employee or some part of the business seemed to start to thrive. Without me, I would start changing the rules, I would start adjusting things, I would start to recreate the system so that they could not succeed. And I don’t know that I ever connected what was going on until much later. But effectively, if the business worked without me, I didn’t know what my identity. Yeah, so I didn’t really want the business to work without me, even though that’s what I spent my nights dreaming about. I wonder
David Ralph [13:29]
what people like say Richard Branson, who’s got like, 476 companies under the Virgin banner, I wonder what he thinks whether, you know, he actually is the business anymore, or it really doesn’t matter if he goes off on holiday or goes up into space and starts a new community out there. Do you think he has some kind of ego attached? I started this and so I should be more involved? Or did you get past that?
Craig Swanson [13:57]
I have no, I know for me, that I started to create a new story for myself. So when I look at myself now, I don’t feel like my job is done until the business is working without me. And so I just have a different story. For me. My story is one about creating paths for other people to be autonomous for, for businesses to work, like my art project is for me to create this entity and for it to have life and for that life to exist without me there giving it CPR. And I suspect Richard Branson is on a completely different level. It’s about brand and life and life transforming Meishan I think that he would feel so small if he were to confine himself to one business in his in his in his collection.
David Ralph [14:42]
Now, what you’re saying there is absolute business, genius, that the only reason you’re in business is to create systems but other people to be able to operate. You know, you don’t get Henry Ford creating a car but only he could Drive, he would create it so everyone could drive it and it becomes this sort of the moving beast, but that changes the world. Now, can you do that on a really small scale? And then scale that up that that concept? Or do you have to understand how all the pieces work before you do that?
Craig Swanson [15:24]
Okay, so understanding how all the pieces work before I create systems, I think one of the biggest things I started to realise is that I am not the type of person that is really the best necessarily at building every system. I, I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, we read these books on how you’re supposed to document everything you do. And some people are not designed to create a perfectly documented process. Some people are designed to come up with innovations, create new things. And so I started to really lean into other people’s strengths. And we talked a little bit about the film and video industry at the beginning. Really what changed me as I started getting exposed to producers and producers, are people on film sets that basically make things happen from a larger vision. And I started find myself pairing up with people that were really extraordinary at the execution side that were hungry for a vision that I could communicate. And I started to learn to let them do what they were fantastic at. And I did what I was fantastic at previous to that my business is always limited to the complexity of the system that I personally could build. And that was somewhat limited.
David Ralph [16:37]
Now I like the fact that you used the word, the skills that you were fantastic at most people would say good at, but you would actually say you’re fantastic. So what would be those things that you you’re a category of one great you are, you’re the man
Craig Swanson [16:56]
I mean, I am an idea generator, I come up with more ideas than can ever be implemented. It is it is my greatest, my greatest power and it is my greatest detriment when I misuse it. It’s one of the reasons why I have so many companies is because if I pour all my ideas into one company, that company has to go through so many changes, that it never gets a chance to be stable. And I have learned to just let ideas flow out of me like water, I do consulting, I support other people, I basically try to create paths that I can do my magic of creation without becoming attached to the results and just limit myself to the few projects, I’m really focused on building where I can build a team that can take just a small portion of those that don’t change, and they can go create something really special. Let’s hear
David Ralph [17:44]
from Oprah. And we’ll be back with Craig, the way
Oprah Winfrey [17:47]
through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, what is the next right move? not think about, oh, I got all of this stuff. But what is the next right move. And then from that space, make the next right move, and the next right move, and not to be overwhelmed by it. Because you know, your life is bigger than that one moment, you know, you’re not defined by what somebody says, is a failure for you. Because failure is just there to point you in a different direction.
David Ralph [18:19]
So when you’ve got so many different companies, and you’re turning your focus in different directions all the time, how do you know? Or how do you position yourself to make the next right move decisions that Oprah is talking about?
Craig Swanson [18:36]
Thoughtfully within within every company, I think and I shouldn’t say I have too many. So generally, I have three companies that are at different stages development that I’m working at any any given time, very, very new, mature, and then something that is that is better, much, much later stage. The biggest thing I think I bring to any team is a real humility, and awareness that I guess wrong, and we all get wrong most of the time. So what’s the next step for me is always the next step is to put something out into the market, and give the market an opportunity to validate or invalidate what we think is important. I can’t tell you how many times I have guessed wrong about what a market wants and values. And if we weren’t listening, and if we didn’t go in humbly looking to see what people were valuing. We could spend years chasing what we think is our value. When when the market is trying to scream for something different.
David Ralph [19:35]
So is it guessing you use the word guessing but I can’t imagine but it is just lick your finger and feel the wind change.
Craig Swanson [19:46]
You know, I don’t mind the word guessing because I think you can start in any direction as long as you’re learning the the you can learn from any direction so movement is necessary regardless. That said I’m the son of a scientist. So my dad was a scientist, we, and my mom was a hippie. So we had a very left brain influence, I had a very right brain influence. And one of the marks of a scientist is you have a hypothesis that you go in to create experiments to prove or disprove. And once you’ve made your hypothesis, if you’re really letting the science show you what’s happening, we are somewhat neutral in terms of what those results are. So for me, I do I create a story I advocate strongly for what I believe is important in what we’re creating. But then I listen hard to what the market is saying in response. And the things that people respond to and lean into we we increase we double down on the things that people are have are sending a deaf ear to, we learn to let go of or find another way to try to message that
David Ralph [20:51]
you sound like somebody that has found his place. And not only in business, but emotionally and in life as well. You sound like somebody who is output to say, No, you can separate yourself from the business you you’ve got your cake and eat it. But what’s that something that really was, you know, work in progress or, or have you really got to that point, because it sounds like you could switch off, go for six weeks vacation, come back, start your businesses again. You’ve got it.
Craig Swanson [21:29]
It was definitely not the way I lived most of my life, my 20s my 30s were a completely different story. Oh, and and by the way, like the real trick is to go on vacation and come back and discover that people have built it into something more than when I left. And that’s the really fun part.
David Ralph [21:42]
And does that happen often to you?
Craig Swanson [21:44]
It does, it does. Largely because I see myself as the as a leader of leaders, I do not build businesses anymore, in which in which I am the motive force. What I am often basically no, I am often earmarking very early on I’m I’m partnering with someone else that has a vision for the markets I’m partnering with someone has their own vision and power and passion. And then I am building in executioners that I’m earmarking who could eventually run this two or three years down the line and I’m trying to mentor them. And there’s actually there’s, there’s I’m working on an online cooking school right now I’m coming in as a partner for online cooking school. And what excites me more than almost anything is the the people I’m working with the two people I’m working with right now are really extraordinary. And developing them and helping them become really powerful in their roles over the next two to three years is what excites me as much as anything else we’re going to create,
David Ralph [22:43]
and how do you actually find these kinds of people? Because I, I have spoken to 1000s and 1000s of entrepreneurs. And most of them aren’t entrepreneurs, with the classic, you know, idea machine bear very much they come up with one idea, and they just keep on chipping away at it and wait until they make their own living. And they do very nice. But how do you find the right people that you can trust when you’re going into environments that perhaps you haven’t got as much knowledge in as other people?
Craig Swanson [23:18]
I mean, the first thing is I talk to a lot of people so so I said I only involved in generally three businesses at one time. So I I do about one deal a year, why come in start building. And so what I do most of the rest of the year is mentoring. Consulting sharing, I’m part of the EO accelerator programme in Seattle, I’m the lead for that and helping entrepreneurs grow. So I spend my time talking to entrepreneurs all the time coaching, doing anything I can to help. And the people I partner with are that small subset of people that really resonate with what I’m doing. And they want more than just me as a consultant, they want me as a partner. And in order to want me as a partner, they have have to have like stepped through their own control issues. And they’re willing to, to share and CO create something with somebody which I think is a really rare stage. I mean, most entrepreneurs are not able to do that early on and and shouldn’t early on.
David Ralph [24:15]
Why shouldn’t my early on
Craig Swanson [24:21]
I think that it is hard to co create when I don’t know me, and I don’t know what I’m good at or not good at i i think people have to go through a process of building something that they are really deeply committed to and attached to, and kind of like getting that out of their system enough to be able to play more loosely. I keep. I keep thinking that people can have decades of experience and also be in their early 20s At the same time and it just doesn’t work. I used to think that that entrepreneurship was everybody and everybody could just like Switch this little thing in their brain and they’d be able to go experience this life that experience, but most people don’t want this. And the people that do want this often have their own control issue. So it really is around people who have found their own power and own their own power, and at the same time, are not afraid of other other people’s powers to co create with and that is really unique. And I think that takes, I think that takes experience. And I think in order to find our own power, we have to spend a period of time where we are just not following the path, we’re kind of, you know, we’re on our own way. And we’re not listening to other people, because we have to figure ourselves out first.
David Ralph [25:35]
I yeah, I think that’s true. About eight years ago, when Join Up, Dots was quite fledgling, I created a programme called podcasters mastery. And now there’s a lot of companies out there that do something similar. And I thought why it’d be me a be this other guy that I thought was very good. And this other guy, and we were gonna bring in, you know, it would be mastering it would be absolute whole platform. And what I found was, I couldn’t work with them, because one of them was a kind of airy fairy ideas, man, that would come up with great big ideas over time, but not actually been deliver on anything. And the other one, you couldn’t get him to deliver on anything over. And ultimately, when I looked back on it, I think it was because my ambition was so strong, and my work ethic was so strong, I didn’t give them the chance. I think that every time they did come up with something, I kind of jumped onto it. And stop them, you know, flourishing it was it was down to me that it failed. When you let’s talk about work ethic, because it is important. How do you balance that with an ideas guy who is hugely important to accompany, but in many regards, might seem a bit of a daydreamer. He might seem a bit a floater, he’s not that hustle and grind. But he’s still bringing in the value. How do you balance work ethic when somebody operates in a totally different way to yourself, Craig? Well, I
Craig Swanson [27:05]
think I think first of all, there’s a lot of just self knowledge that comes along with that, I think I have some of the I have some advantage in that I’m also very technically skilled, and I can get into the weeds on some things. But the big picture for me is a company has a balance for what it needs. And I think most entrepreneurs, certainly me, I built my business based on my personal needs, I needed to do a certain amount I needed 40 hours per week of creativity and of hearts, hard charging, I needed things that came together in 48 hours after ideation, I needed all these things for myself. And I created a business that was just scattered to the wind, because the business didn’t want my needs, the business had his own separate needs that I was not honouring. So, a lot of times when I’m working, when I’m coaching entrepreneurs that are really, really strong idea, visionaries that don’t necessarily are as good at the details, and they’re very hard charging, one of the things I’m often coaching them to do is to do less to at the stage of their business is if it can only take 10 hours of that visionary, they either need to be able to have a functional job in the business or they are turning off the visionary, or they need to go get a hobby. It’s different visionaries, visionaries are difficult, difficult, because unless you have a team that really understands how to push back and say no, and how to take your ideas, there are very few companies that can absorb the full creative power of a really powerful visionary. And if that visionary sees their own personal needs to create, as exactly one on one in relationship with the needs of their business, and they try to shove all of themselves into a business that doesn’t need that capacity, then they create something that doesn’t work.
David Ralph [29:00]
Does it make sense? It makes total sense. I’m referencing the the founder of Join Up Dots, Mr. Steve Jobs, who we based a whole speech around. And he was somebody that was obviously she hugely visionary, but actually, that almost destroyed him in the process. We’ve seen the same with like Elon Musk, and a lot of the big guys out there. But their visions are too bold for what people can deliver. So they get angry and suppressed and combative, which isn’t conducive to a working environment. When you think about people like Steve Jobs, obviously he’s not here anymore. Is he a visionary that we should hold up to? Because of his flaws more than what he actually delivered to the world?
Craig Swanson [29:54]
You know, I mean, actually, here’s the thing about flaws and strengths. Here’s the hyper for Steve Jobs he created in his second round at Apple, the foundation of what became one of the largest and the largest company in the world. Hypothetically, if if he weren’t not splitting his time between Apple and Pixar, do you think Apple would be stronger? One of the big things he came into Apple with is he never took on the CEO role until very late he had his role was ICEO, interim CEO, and he was also the CEO of Pixar. And I have to wonder if that jumping back and forth allowed a little bit of a pressure release, that allowed his teams to build better underneath him in both cases. And you take that, then it’s different from from Tim Cook, who was leading apple. Now Tim Cook is an executer, he’s likely the strongest executer in probably in business right now, he’s extraordinary is not a visionary, like Steve. But he executed Steve’s vision tremendously. There’s that balance, and that and I think that I think that the visionary needs to learn to allow their visionary skills to be somewhat constrained by the needs of the business in order to allow the business to flourish. And I think there are a lot of law strategies to that. But I think Steve has a really, I mean, I really do think Steve is a really great example, if he didn’t have other things he was doing. If he was trying to get all his needs met at Apple, I really think that Apple would not be as successful as it turned out to be in his second round,
David Ralph [31:29]
is fascinating when you hear that story, but, but dark times, and this is one of the Join Up Dots mantras as well. But he had dark times, when you’re far enough away from them normally turn out into your best times. That’s the times that you learn. That’s the times that you look back on, and you think God, I’d never go through that again. But But thank God because without that, I wouldn’t have pivoted or I wouldn’t have gone into that bar for a drink and met the wife that I’ve now got three kids we have or or whatever, there’s always that kind of thing. So when you sort of look back on your time, and I think what we’ve been talking about Craig, really prove everything in this conversation is balance, we’ve been talking about the kind of yin yang of business, playing to people’s strengths, allowing them to operate stepping back, having your cake and eat it, as you know, you’re quite open to say, Now, when you look at everything that you bring to the business now is it as much to do with the dark times when it has been the walks in the park.
Craig Swanson [32:41]
Um, I would not be here if not for one of the darkest times in my life. And that was that was there as a transition point. During Creative Live, when effectively Creative Live was being kind of ripped out of my hands. That’s what it felt like. In hindsight, it was Creative Live going through a management shift that it needed, because we were shifting into a different type of business. And we were we were getting to be bigger, but for what it felt like to me is it felt like my very identity was being ripped away from me. And if I had not gone through that, if I had not had a chance to view life, on the other side of this transition I had been fighting so hard against, I never would have reached this freedom point of realising how much how much more impact I can have in the world when I don’t need to control everything. i I’ll just continue. I was 100%, owner of every business Iran, up until 2010. And when I partnered for Creative Live, I slowly went from 100% down to a much lower percentage, because we were taking investors and in that process lost control and in that process, discovered my own strength and power. And I’ve never been a more than 50% owner of any business since then. And almost all the wealth and accomplishments I’ve created in my career have come in businesses in which I am not the 100% owner.
David Ralph [34:10]
He’s Fascinating, isn’t it, but you can allow so much control to be given away and still create probably more success than if you were reining it all in. You know, I I look at so much of what I do now compared to what I used to do. And I think to myself, it’s not that I don’t care, but I’ve allowed things to have breathing space, which I didn’t have before. I don’t care if it goes badly wrong, because I don’t think it will and if it does start to go badly wrong. Then I look at it and see what needs to be done. You can allow control to just run loose, can’t you?
Craig Swanson [34:57]
I think so I mean I run loose makes me I feel a little bit itchy. But I think I think it’s also, I think that we as entrepreneurs, try to control too much. And impart we our identity is so tied to what we’re doing that it feels wrong, when we give up control, regardless of whether the business is doing better or worse. And the one thing I always tell entrepreneurs at this stage where they’re 100% owner, they do everything, their their, their the motive force their business, no matter how skilled the person they bring in, they are going to feel as if the business is doing worse, when they start to turn over jobs to other people. And the first step in turning over a job, and empowering someone else is to allow that person to do a worse job than I would. And that could be worse, because I feel like it’s worth because it’s gonna feel like it’s worse no matter what, because I’m going to nitpick into little individual little details that they have done. Yeah. Or, it could be worse, because I generally make a mistake. Um, and the thing is, I tend to give myself grace and credit for my mistakes and my history to a greater degree than I give my employees. And one example I use is an email marketing. I don’t know an email marketer that I would trust that has not sent the incorrect email to the incorrect, huge list of people and experienced that panic of making a major mistake on a big public platform. And I don’t know that you can develop the type of paranoia you need to survive in this industry, in marketing and others areas without making those big mistakes. And yet, if I’m unwilling to ever allow my team to grow past a mistake like that, if I’m never willing to allow other people to make a mistake, then they can never become better versions of themselves, they can ever take it to the next level, and they can never build the things that I take for granted now.
David Ralph [36:48]
So why does the words lose control make you ah, even because you basically demonstrated to my way of thinking, loose control, I it’s happening, but you can step in when you need to,
Craig Swanson [37:04]
you know what, actually, I love what I just heard you say, but I guess use the word use the word I heard you say loose control, as opposed to lose control. And I actually love that idea. So for me, it’s not so much that I mind me losing control. But I need to understand where the control is. And I need to understand the motives I spend a lot of time understanding the people that I am handing control over to. So I don’t lose control as much as I delegate handover or give other people control and determine how much control I’m going to give them. And whether I win and where I need to jump in. So I do think that a lot of people who are uncomfortable handing over control, actually do more of an abdication of controls, basically, they say, I can’t control everything. And so they just let go of the wheel. And they immediately prove to themselves, they never should have done that. Yeah, yeah. Um, and in part of this is age. So I think it a little bit like letting my son learn to drive when he was 16. We are not in a car that is uncontrolled, but the control is no longer in my hands. And it is in control of someone who has an office. And so that puts his role and my role into a different place. But I don’t advocate having no control of the car, I just had an advocate for letting control go to novices as they are developing their skills.
David Ralph [38:24]
Let’s hear from Steve Jobs.
Unknown Speaker [38:27]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [39:02]
Well, I’ve never met somebody that’s had a linear path is Jodan generally the classic squiggly journey, but can you look back in and join up your dots Craig?
Craig Swanson [39:14]
Yeah, it I see so many recurring themes in my life that I don’t know, that I recognised at the time at the time and, and even early on. So in. There are so many business failures I have had early in early days that were sketch prototypes for businesses that I would come back and build later. I can’t tell you how many times a failed business concept in in like the early 2000s. I’m coming back and I’m taking things I learned from that and I’m starting to put it into play unexpectedly in a new business I’m building because all of a sudden, it’s coming up again and I’m realising that those skills and that thought that that knowledge I had from earlier on that didn’t really go anywhere at the time can uniquely makes me fit into something right now in relationships and everything like that everything is a remix of like my past choices. And yeah, the more mistakes I’ve made in the past and the more different places I’ve been to gives me more grist to be able to create something today.
David Ralph [40:15]
We mentioned earlier about the dark.in your life when created live was being pulled away from you. But I’m interested, I don’t think I’ve ever asked this question before. But have you ever had a lucky.in your life, but you look back on it, and you think, wow, that that just fell in my lap. And and I wrote a wave on that one.
Craig Swanson [40:37]
I mean, I mean, the biggest one, the biggest one would have to be my wife, my wife and I meeting, and me at my youth being wise enough to realise how extraordinary she was for me. If I had made a different choice there, if she made a different choice there, my entire life would be different. Outside of that, I can’t there, I always have luck, I think actually, luck. Luck, for me, is an early sign of skill. As we are starting to play in different spaces, and learn in different skip spaces. The first wins always look like luck. And, and basically a lot of skill is just pattern matching after previous lucky attempts. So you
David Ralph [41:23]
see where things have gone? Well, and then you you deep dive on to that.
Craig Swanson [41:29]
Exactly. And you recognise we recognise what worked and what we can do again, can we build muscle memory.
David Ralph [41:35]
So you say that we can actually turn those those non connected dots into stepping stones, as long as we pay enough attention.
Craig Swanson [41:47]
I certainly believe that I definitely kind of believe I’m more of a found artist than a planned artist. So you know, my house tends to be a little bit messy, I tend to have a lot of stuff, both mentally and physically and technologically, the surrounding me. So I’ve got a lot to pull from when I’m trying to troubleshoot and come up with ideas. I think that people who only have a life experience that’s narrowly focused on their needs, that they can explain, really have left to draw on from out of the box thinking when they need it.
David Ralph [42:21]
I’m going to move us to the end of the show now I could keep this going forever in a day. But let’s take you on a journey. And this is the part of the show that we call the Sermon on the mic when we’re going to send you back in time to have a one on one with the young Craig Swanson. And if you could meet him, what age would you love to meet? And what advice would you give him perhaps you wouldn’t give him any advice and just tell him to make it up as he goes along? We’re gonna find out because I’m going to play the music and when it fades is your time to talk. This is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [42:57]
Here we go with the best bit of the show the Sermon on the mic, the sermon on.
Craig Swanson [43:15]
When I was in my early 20s, I used to have an exercise that I would do when I was feeling really pressed. And I would visualise a much older, much wiser version of myself coming back to advise me at this moment to to look at the moment I was dealing with, through the perspective of someone that had lived a long successful life. And so I always had this picture of a future me as my advisor. And honestly, when I think about this for me, if I had an opportunity to go back to me in my 20s What I would do is I would sit with that Craig Swanson and I would ask him to tell me, his hopes and dreams to remind me of his idealism and passion that has been tempered by life, I would ask him to hold on to these dreams for me and thank him for reminding me because I feel like in a lot of ways, my inspiration is trying to now recreate recreate what he had naturally, which was this idealism and passion. That was unrealistic, and came from just this joy of life. untempered and untested. So I would tell him, it’s all going to work out in the end, I would tell him, it’s gonna be okay, that life is good. And that asked him to please share with me what we were dreaming then. So I can try to do honour to him in my coming decades.
David Ralph [44:35]
Craig, but for people out there listening today, what’s the best way that they can connect with
Craig Swanson [44:41]
you? LinkedIn is a great way to connect with me and just in general, the hub for me is Craig swanson.org. So it’s my name with a.org nada.com and that’s the one place that will get you to anything I’m doing.
David Ralph [44:55]
And I’m interested when is the cookery platform coming live?
Craig Swanson [45:01]
I think that it’s going to show up on my LinkedIn profile in the next two months. I hope there should be a launch coming up here soon. We’re we’re right now racing to build everything.
David Ralph [45:12]
Brilliant, brilliant, I will look out for that as soon as it comes. Great. Thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining up those dots. And please come back again, when you add more dots to join up, because I do believe that by joining up those dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Craig, thank you so much.
Craig Swanson [45:30]
Thank you so much for having me. This was really fantastic.
David Ralph [45:35]
So a deep conversation bear about letting go. loose control, finding balance in your life and your business. And I can’t emphasise too much if you are building a business, you’ve got to allow yourself to walk away from it. You’ve got to allow yourself to be as important as the business. Because if it gets all word into one, then something’s going to come apart and more often than not is your own personal health. When you listen to Craig via you can hear that he he was in control. He was calm, he was relaxed. And as I said to him afterwards, it sounded like the Craig but if I met him live would be the same person. And that’s a big testament to him. So um, yeah, I really enjoyed that one. Hopefully you did, too. So thank you so much for people out there. I’m looking forward to more questions being sent through to us at join up firstname.lastname@example.org Of course, you can come across and just press the voice message button and leave your voice so that I can hear from you directly if that’s easier, and we will respond in kind but until next time you look after yourselves. And we’ll see you again. Cheers. See ya. Bye bye.
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